Credit Check Giant Accused of 'Ripping Off' Its Customers

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Verkaik

BRITAIN'S biggest credit reference agency has been accused of misleading customers who sign up for a supposedly free service to check their financial records.

Experian advertises the service on its website, stating: 'Get your free Experian credit report. The UK's No1 credit report!'

Those who take up the offer are then required to provide a range of personal information, including their address and credit-card details.

But after receiving their online credit report, customers are automatically signed up to a full service charging them [pounds sterling]14.99 a month - and many claim that it is extremely difficult to opt out of the payments.

The full service includes a [pounds sterling]6.40 identity fraud insurance and email alerts telling customers about any changes in their financial circumstances.

One customer said: 'I searched for hours on the Experian website to get out of paying any money. I couldn't even locate the freephone number which they say you have to ring to unsubscribe. Even when I said I didn't want to pay I was offered another service costing [pounds sterling]7.99 a month.'

Within hours of The Mail on Sunday approaching Experian, the company admitted that the wording on the website, saying that the customer had been charged immediately, was misleading and promised to remove it.

A spokesman said: 'We are grateful for you drawing this to our attention and we will immediately update the website to stop the wording from appearing.'

However, he denied that the system for opting out of Experian's premium service was unfair, insisting that it was transparent to all users.

He added: 'There is a balance to be struck here. We don't want to be so helpful that we encourage people to leave our service. After all, you don't go into a supermarket and see signs for how to get a refund.'

Experian has seen its profits soar as consumers use its online service to check their credit-worthiness during the economic downturn. …