Credit reference agencies and credit reports

 April 2016

Fact sheet no. 5

What this fact sheet is about

This fact sheet explains what credit reference agencies are, what they do and your rights.

Use this fact sheet to:

  • understand credit scoring;
  • deal with being turned down for credit;
  • work out how debts will affect your credit report; and
  • challenge incorrect information on your report.

This fact sheet includes:

  • some useful contacts and links for you to get further help.

What is a credit reference agency?

Credit reference agencies hold information about your credit agreements (including any arrears), rent agreements, county court judgments (CCJs) and electoral roll information. A lender or landlord can only pass on information about your agreements with your consent. You usually give this consent when you sign the agreement. Failure to obtain your consent is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.
County court judgments will automatically be registered and are kept on record for a period of six years. The information a credit reference agency holds about you is known as your credit report (or file).


no blacklist

Credit reference agencies provide factual information with your consent, so that a company can make a decision about whether to lend you money. They do not have a 'blacklist' of people who should not be given credit.


Credit scoring


the electoral register

You can apply to go on the electoral register at any time of year. See or contact your local council. You should also update your details if you move house.

When being considered for credit, a lender may take into account factors such as your age, occupation and whether you are a homeowner (the information you give them on your credit application). Lenders often assess this information and the information on your credit report using a process known as credit scoring. They will also take into account whether you are on the electoral register. This may be an important part of the lender deciding whether to give you credit.  

The lender may give points to each piece of information it has and then add them up to give you a credit score. If you do not score above the particular company’s pass level then you may well be turned down. The score might take into account the information on your credit report. Each lender has their own policy guidelines that they follow when making lending decisions.

Extra advice:

computerised scoring

If the decision was made solely using a computerised scoring system you can ask the lender to look at your application again. This review should be done manually and not using an automated system. You may have to supply extra information to support your application.

Every time you apply for credit a ‘search’ by the lender is marked on your credit report. Searches stay on your file for different times depending upon which credit reference agency was used. Experian and Equifax holds search entries for 12 months and Callcredit for up to 24 months.

Ask the lender if they are using a credit score to decide whether to give you credit. If the company uses a computerised system you should be given broad information about how credit scoring works and the type of things they have taken into account in the scoring system for that company. If you are turned down they should tell you if you didn’t pass. They should also tell you if you were turned down for any other reason, for example, because of the information held on your credit report.


When you guarantee a credit agreement, this means if the person whose name the agreement is in does not pay, the creditor can ask you to pay. Credit reference agencies would not normally record a credit agreement on a guarantor's credit report if payments are up-to-date. If payments are missed, any default or county court judgment could be recorded on the guarantor's credit report.