Credit Reports: Rightfully Ours

Will RBI insist on one credit report free annually?


Dr Kirit Somaiya, Member of Parliament (MP), who inaugurated Moneylife Foundation’s Credit Helpline, narrated the story of how former Union minister Suresh Prabhu found himself marked a defaulter for no fault of his. Apparently, a telephone company had failed to disconnect a mobile number and was piling on the minimum charges with interest that made him a ‘defaulter’.


This story is repeated all over the country with multiple variations; none of them has the same quick resolution that Mr Prabhu probably had. Some multinational banks have sold off their defaulter portfolios to recovery agencies without any attempt to clean them up. Consequently, thousands of people have been served legal notices with exaggerated demands. This is forcing victims to seek help from ‘debt doctors’ or ‘credit repair’ agencies who, along with credit recovery agencies, are indulging in extortion!


A third set of people are completely innocent victims of an identity mix-up within credit information companies (CICs) whose data algorithms match up multiple borrowings of people from different lenders to create a credit profile. Sometimes, this goes horribly wrong and people who have no borrowing or good credit record are shown as defaulters. Moneylife Foundation has helped resolve a couple of such cases.


The biggest issue, though, is the absence of information. The Credit Information Bureau of India Limited (CIBIL) is currently running an advertising campaign that grossly exaggerates the advantages of a high credit score. CIBIL enjoys the first-mover advantage and has become the generic name for credit scores. This also adds considerably to its bottom-line because it is allowed to charge for its credit reports and collects a hefty Rs450 to give you your credit score!


This historical and extortive practice needs to be changed. In the US, every person with a credit history is entitled to get one free credit report from every credit rating agency. Typically, an American will get an annual credit report from at least four credit bureaus operating there. The same big global names operate in India—TransUnion with CIBIL, Experian and Equifax (with CRISIL) and a fourth which is called Crif.


One of the first issues that Moneylife Foundation would like to take up with the Reserve Bank of India, and through Dr Kirit Somaiya’s promise of help, is that Indians too should get their credit report free every year at least by email (to keep costs low). This will ensure that a Suresh Prabhu is not shocked at finding himself a defaulter when his son is going abroad. And innocent victims of identity mix-ups will know of problems long before they apply for a loan.


But, as Dr Somaiya said, this is only the beginning. A lot more needs to be done, including on the issue of deliberate mis-selling of insurance and wealth management products by banks. But this will happen only when regulators are forced to have an open dialogue with financial consumers and are made accountable to people. Unfortunately, that is still a far cry.


(Corrected Article)

9 years ago
we feel that income tax department make raids and added the wrong expenses and clandstine sale or purchases . but promoter does not bring back money in company
9 years ago

Quite an insightful story. Just thought would bring to your notice.

The credit bureau KRIF is actually called CRIF High Mark.

Thank You

9 years ago
There are several similar cases with regard to unwanted renewal of credit cards and credit card companies (banks) charging and then naming innocent people as defaulters. The beauty is that the victim doesn't even get to know till he approaches a bank for loan. CIBIL is callous in its response..they will direct you to the bank and the bank will direct you to CIBIL for removal of your name from the defaulters list. Time for a PIL?
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