Treasury Committee launches inquiry into Credit Searches in conjunction with MSE

MSE_Martin Posts: 8,272 Money Saving Expert
First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
edited 6 October 2009 at 8:18PM in Credit cards
[title=]wtd_icon.gif Why aren't we told the rate before applying for credit?[/title]
Apply for a product and it puts a search on your credit file which hits your credit score, yet many products are rate for risk, so you can't know what you'll need to pay without applying (see the Credit Rating guide). This vicious circle, that hurts you when you shop around, should be stopped.

We've been campaigning on this for a while, and after meeting with the Treasury Select Committee of MPs - whose job is to hold the treasury to account - it's now running an inquiry into the effect on credit ratings of consumers shopping round for personal loans, credit cards, mortgages to get the best deals.

[title=]wtd_icon.gif Help get the law changed[/title]
While it can't make the law, the Treasury Select Committee is a powerful force, it can and has compelled powerful people - the PM, Chancellor, Bank heads and more - to sit before it and give evidence. Its reports have widespread impact and often see real change as the Government must formally respond to any Select Committee reports.

For this investigation the committee wants to hear MoneySavers experiences, suggestions and comments by 14 October, e.g. have you applied for one product to be given another, were you rejected and then unable to get a card or loan elsewhere as a result?

Your stories (anonymously if you'd prefer) may then be used in a parliamentary evidence session at the end of October.

The Committee will then ask witnesses (probably credit search companies) to give evidence and once the names of witnesses have been confirmed you could be asked for ideas on questions to put to them.

[title=]wtd_icon.gif A word from John McFall MP[/title]
Treasury Committee Chairman John McFall MP says:
"We on the Treasury Committee are delighted to be able to team up with on this important issue, which Martin Lewis highlighted to us.

Members of the public should not be penalised for shopping around for credit, especially in difficult economic times such as these, when it is vital they can access the best deal for them.

I very much see our Committee's role as providing a link between Parliament and the public. We can highlight issues and problems faced by the everyday consumer to the Government and banks and hopefully effect change. We have already done so successfully on issues such as access to free cash machines.

We will be following up this issue with an evidence session in Parliament in October. In the meantime, we are looking to users to let us know about their experiences and difficulties in searching for and obtaining credit before October 14th. We look forward to hearing your stories."
The Treasury Committee is sorry that it is not able to intervene on individual cases but you can find out more about the inquiry on the Committee's web site.

[title=]wtd_icon.gif Why this is so important?[/title]
Make an application for a loan or credit card and the act of applying puts a search on your credit file, which in turn affects your credit score.

This is frankly ridiculous and means some people apply for 8% loans, get told they'd be charged 16% and then see their ability to get a cheaper loan from elsewhere diminished because of that application.

Alternatively you can apply for a credit card for its cashback rewards, only to be told that you're getting a different card without cashback that you don't want. Yet again, the process of doing so potentially hurts your ability to apply elsewhere.

Sadly most cards and loans advertise 'typical rate' which legally only means 66% of accepted applicants get that rate. For those rejected the need to apply to another provider can lead to rejection spiral as too many searches, especially in a short time, can hurt your credit score. The recent change by Barclaycard to introduce a pre application check is a positive move.

My view is quite simply that you should be able to know EXACTLY what rate you will get before it's recorded on credit files. This is something we've been arguing for a while - see 50 words and the recent stop applications hitting shopping around blog - so it's fantastic to see the Treasury Select Committee launching this inquiry.

[title=]wtd_icon.gif How to respond[/title]
Preferably click reply to post your story below although if you don't want it to be public, email [EMAIL=""][/EMAIL].

MSE will then pick the best examples to send to the Treasury Committee.
Please try and stick to around 100 words to tell your tale - there's more chance of it being read & used.

Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at
Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000


  • co123456
    I've felt there does become a point where the credit scoring/screening method in place becomes anti competitive and puts me off 'shopping around'. Reminds me of the OFT news today about a Cartel of building companies sharing information in order to get the best price for themselves. I'm all for sharing information in order to screen bad risk customers. After all, credit card companies have to remain solvent. What I do object to is the sharing of information which I would consider anti-competitive.
  • never-in-doubt
    I think Martin needs to re-evaluate his comments above "The recent change by Barclaycard to introduce a pre application check is a positive move" because the fact of the matter is that this checker system is useless.

    For instance they search CallCredit for the checker but then go ahead and search Equifax at the time you 'actually' apply, after being misled by the 90% chance of success or whatever message.

    I mean, its common sense to actually search using the actual CRA you will do the main search with, so to that end Barclays Pre Application Checker is actually useless and actually hurts your credit file more than it helps due to the fact CallCredit and Equifax are two totally different CRA's who operate differently and as such the data they provide will differ somewhat.

    Just my point of view but valid all the same.
    :o 2010 - year of the troll :o

    Niddy - Over & Out :wave:
  • suze369
    Hi This is my first post but this is such an important subject I thought I had to comment.

    During a call to discuss my Current account I was solicited by my bank Smile to take out a loan to clear my Credit Card balance with them. I didn't really want to as this would tie me down to a fixed term when I really want to clear it as quickly as possible. The agent quoted me that I would pay an APR of 7.9%, which seemed a good rate so I agreed to letting someone call me to discuss it further.

    A week later I recieved a call from the Smile Loan team and I recapped the conversation with his colleague including the APR given. It was only once we commenced the application process that I was given an APR of 16.9% instead! No clear reason was given and the agent said ' well you were overdrawn in April and May, so that will be why'.

    I can't deny I was overdrawn but only on the last days prior to each pay day, and then only by <£5 and have had many years of being in the black with them.

    Needless to say I stopped the application and will be looking to the MSE site for recommended current accounts soon!

    I hope this example can help to stop this practice as effectively misleads customers and many in worse finanical situations may be forced to continue down this route. Good luck MSE! :money:
    Sealed Pot Challenge 5 - #1475
  • pmb2k
    pmb2k Posts: 14 Forumite
    I think this is definitely worth the case because i applied for a credit card couple of years ago now and managed to get a Paypal Mastercard which is funded by ex GEMoney now Santander. They give me an automatic £4000 limit which i was very surprised at but then again i was working for the company at the time ;-)

    Anyway i recently got a letter back stating my credit limit had went down from an amazing £4000 to a very low £750 due to them evaluating my circumstances and looking back how my payments have been with them. As i think i have missed the odd one or two payments this is a result of this & now im probably wondering whether or not my credit report will be affected by this. The other card is from Halifax and again same amount been given but i probably don't need that much again not sure why they give me that much in the first place
  • BenL
    BenL Posts: 3,189 Forumite

    The credit reference companies have a "quotation" search function but the banks and credit firms are not suing it correctly. These companies need to be forced to use it for checking purposes and then when the agreement is taken out the full reporting of the facts.

    This won't help them with people doing multiple searches but as they can review and slash the limits afterwards they can minimize their risk if it turns out after a month or 2 that the customer has applied for more credit.

    There was a spokesman on the radio advising that only 1/3rd of the loan providers do rate for risk. Its a shame its all the lowest providers who you would want to go with though and not the 30% apr group.
    I beep for Robins - Beep Beep
    & Choo Choo for trains!!
  • MSE_Martin
    MSE_Martin Posts: 8,272 Money Saving Expert
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    edited 23 September 2009 at 10:20AM
    Important Note

    Hi folks,

    Just a quick note that this thread is for direct specific feedback for the Treasury Select Committee on the issue of credit applications and rate for risk products.

    Chatty discussion about general issues or even general discussion on debt isnt relevant. This is an evidence gathering thread for parliament. Please can we keep it on topic, and realise this is an opportunity to get something done about a problem that blights many.

    So Im sorry but any off topic discussions will be deleted (some already have).

    Thank you for your co-operation
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at
    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
  • Idiophreak
    Idiophreak Posts: 12,024 Forumite
    Combo Breaker First Post
    edited 23 September 2009 at 10:38AM
    I think this investigation's well overdue.

    I applied to Sainsbury's earlier in the year for a loan advertised at (iirc) 6.9% "typical". Upon application I was told my rate would be 9.9%. I questioned this and they told me to consult my credit file. Which I did. As I suspected, my credit file showed absolutely nothing amiss, a number of accounts, not a single missed payment...I did the "give me my credit score thing" you can do on the website and it said my score was 999/999. I was living with my parents, so had little in the way of outgoings and I earn a decent wage.

    Armed with my credit report, I then went back to Sainsbury's and made the point that clearly my circumstances and credit rating place me far above "typical" in terms of my ability and likelihood to repay the loan, so why was I being offered above the typical rate? I was then told that it could have been due to the amount of the loan I'd asked for or the term of the loan requested.

    I tried to make my point several times that if it were these things that caused the rate to increase (or any other "internal criteria" for that matter) it was immoral, at best, for them to run a credit check - and thus footprint my file - for a loan on which I was never going to be offered the rate I'd applied for. Needless to say nothing ever came of my complaint.

    It's about time there was a little transparency added to this process and lenders should be more accountable and explain their scoring decisions. This "it's not our fault, write to the underwriter" get-out they seem to operate is ridiculous.

    ETA: Found my original thread:

    Misquoted the figures slightly, I applied for 8.1% and was offered 12.1%.
  • Joe_Bloggs
    Rate for risk is a double edged sword. It hinders the ability of a risky borrower to repay the capital and subsequent interest. Thus making it more likely that they will default. This thought process could well be a cycle in which lenders feel they have to charge more interest to make up losses ,due to defaults/debt management plans, that their high interest rates have created.

    It might have been kinder to transfer the posts that were off topic to the MoneySavers Arms rather than deleting them. I recommend that all posters keep a local copy on their own computers of their posts in case of a network error or an editorial decision, expunging their misdirected thoughts into oblivion.
  • BenL
    BenL Posts: 3,189 Forumite
    In addition, I understand that in order for the words "typical" to be used in the adverts 66% off approved applicants must receive this rate.

    Who checks this? and is it done monthly?
    I beep for Robins - Beep Beep
    & Choo Choo for trains!!
  • GAB_2
    My experience was some time ago now as I prefer to save for something I want rather than get a loan, however your campaign highlights that practices haven't changed.

    Shortly after buying my first house I decided to exit my company car scheme, opting instead for the cash. Being a savvy consumer I shopped around for the best loan rate to buy a car, but at every turn I was offered a far higher rate than that advertised. It was only after the third or fourth loan application that I learnt that each search left a footprint that potentially made further searches look worse!

    I then got very worried, having already applied and had several searches. I applied to Experian and Equifax for my credit history and they both came back very healthy, further confusing me as to why the rates I was offered were so high. However, I was now stuck in a catch-22, I wanted a decent APR but was worried about leaving credit search footprints.

    In the end, I went to my bank (NatWest), with whom I had a long and good relationship and they immediately offered me a loan. It wasn't the best rate available but was certainly better than all the others I'd been offered. So, I got my loan but was still very annoyed about the penalty of searching around for the best rate.

    Something I never got to the bottom of is why I was always offered rates so much higher than those advertised. The only thing I can think of (given my clean credit history), was that having just bought my first house the banks must have felt I was at a higher risk of defaulting on a car loan. If this is correct, it clearly demonstrates why people should make decisions about loans rather than computers as, what they weren't factoring in was that my company was now giving me money, in lieu of a car, with which to pay the loan. Something a human could have factored in.

    Good luck with your campaign, this penalty for shopping around is long overdue to be outlawed.
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