Q&A: Credit reference agencies and access to information

The below Q&A relates to a Consultation on improving the information made available to credit reference agencies, which can be found here: Credit reference agency access to information (gov.je)

Why does Government want to give credit reference agencies access to personal information?

Government is proposing to provide UK credit reference agencies (“CRAs”) with information on Jersey residents which is currently maintained within the Register of Names and Addresses, this more commonly referred to as the People Directory. This information will be provided to CRAs with its usage limited to facilitating the performance of credit/affordability checks and the performance of customer due diligence measures for anti-money laundering purposes.

What is the People Directory?

The People Directory is a central repository that holds information about the general public and is used by all States of Jersey departments to support operations and the delivery of services to customers. This includes the delivery of social security and pensions to Islanders.

Why aren’t we using data from the Jersey electoral register?

A common source of information for credit reference agencies in the UK and Isle of Man is the electoral register. Whilst the Government has considered the provision of Jersey’s electoral register, it was recognised this was not the best solution, posing operational challenges from the perspective that there are 12 electoral registers with 12 data controllers, and strategic misalignment as residents will only be eligible to vote after two years of residency. A solution utilising the People Directory, which is maintained by Government, is far simpler and will contain the necessary information on persons resident in Jersey.

Why is this necessary?

Financial institutions and providers of credit will, under the proposed consumer credit regulatory regime, be required to perform affordability checks prior to providing certain products to potential customers to ensure adequate protection of the customer.

Further to this, they are required to perform customer due diligence checks in accordance with anti-money laundering requirements. Utilising the information from a customer report provided by a CRA is an efficient means of supporting these processes. In absence of this, banks and lenders have to implement more bespoke processes, limiting the ability to leverage technological and digital advancements to processes. For consumers, the absence could result in a substandard customer experience and, in worst cases, a reduction of products on offer. This has been visible with the reduced offering of credit cards to Jersey residents.

So if Government delivers this, will we see a reintroduction of credit cards?

The sharing of information with credit reference agencies will address a key barrier to the extension of services typically from UK card providers to Jersey residents. We hope that banks and card service providers will recognise the progress here and reflect on the completeness of their offering to Jersey residents.

What is a credit reference agency? 

Credit reference agencies are independent organisations that securely hold data about customers with the primary purpose to provide lenders with a range of information on a potential customer. 

In the UK there are three main consumer credit reference agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. 

The activity of providing credit references in the UK is subject to regulation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority. 

The majority of information held by the credit reference agencies relates to how you have maintained your credit and service/utility accounts. It also includes details of your previous addresses and information from public sources on address, court judgements, and bankruptcy and insolvency. This information is used to support affordability checks performed by lenders when assessing an application for credit.  

The information held by credit reference agencies is also used for verification of identity, age and residency, for the purposes of identifying and tracking fraud and combatting money laundering. 

Companies can only access your credit report from a credit reference agency if they have a legitimate reason, this primarily being the vetting of an application for a product.  

How will the information be provided?

Government is proposing to share with credit reference agencies the following fields of data for Jersey residents 18 years and older:

  • Full name
  • Residential address
  • Full date of birth

Credit reference agencies already hold information on Jersey residents relating to account opening the repayment of credit facilities. This information is shared subject to contractual terms and conditions of the relevant products.

The information Government is sharing will support credit reference agencies to match you and your address to the information they already hold, developing a basis to confirm address history and enabling them to then share more accurate information with lenders/service providers with whom you have made an application.

In line with the established processes and operations of CRAs, Government will be providing a periodic extract from the People Directory. Providing this on a monthly basis will ensure that persons who become 18 years of age or persons moving to the Island will not have to wait for an extended period of time before their information, and thus any credit applications, is supported by CRAs.

Will I now be exposed to my data being shared freely in the UK?

No. Government is proposing to make limited powers in the law to share the information with credit reference agencies. Credit reference agencies use of the information will be limited to specific purposes by Jersey law. In practice this means that credit reference agencies will only share your information where there is a legitimate reason, this primarily where an application has been made for a product.

It should be noted that credit reference agencies are subject to UK data protection law, noting the UK is considered an equivalent jurisdiction under GDPR, and are subject to regulation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

Will I be able to opt out of my information being shared to the CRAs?

It is proposed that credit reference agencies will be provided with a filtered extract of the People Directory and that the data shared for Jersey residents will be treated like the closed electoral registers in the UK, thus not used for purposes beyond the performance of credit checking and facilitating CDD processes. In line with data protection law, individuals can request their information be omitted from the information supplied to CRAs, however, in doing so an individual should recognise the impacts this may have on future applications for credit products.

What rights do Jersey residents have to access their information held by credit reference agencies? 

Jersey residents have the right to request a copy of the information held from any of the credit reference agencies. Making this request is free of charge and can be made either verbally or in writing.

If you find that your consumer data is inaccurate, you can raise this directly with the credit reference agency. It is highlighted that in some instances the inaccuracy may not lie with the credit reference agency but with the original lender whom you will need to contact for correction. If neither are willing to correct an inaccuracy, you may wish to contact the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner. 

Can credit reference agencies do anything else with my information? 

Many of the credit reference agencies have business functions that go beyond the specific purposes for which the information from the Register of Names and Addresses will be provided. 

The information Government will be providing will be treated as equivalent to the UK full electoral register, not the open (edited) register, and thus it will not be permissible to use it for broader business functions or purposes which extend beyond those specified within the proposal.

How do I submit my views?

The Consultation is here: Credit reference agency access to information (gov.je)

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