‘Free’ credit information reports are not that ‘free’
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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made it mandatory for all credit information agencies in the country to give a free full credit report (FFCR) without any charge, on request, once a calendar year to individuals whose credit history is available. This rule has come into force from 1 January 2017. At present, there are four such companies in India: CRIF High Mark Credit Information Services Pvt. Ltd, Equifax Credit Information Services Pvt. Ltd, Experian Credit Information Co. of India Pvt. Ltd and Transunion CIBIL Ltd. Thus, you can actually have four credit reports for free each year, as you can get one from each company.
Starting first week of January, Mint Money tried to get these ‘free’ reports from all the agencies. We document the search for the free stuff that customers are entitled to. But before that, a bit about credit reports.
What is a CIR?
A credit information report (CIR) contains details of your credit history, as collated by a credit information company, or a credit bureau. Whenever you apply for a loan, the lender asks a credit bureau to check if you have paid earlier dues on time. This forms a part of your overall credit history and will reflect in your CIR. Individuals are assigned a score by CIRs, which helps to check their eligibility for a loan. According to Cibil, the oldest such agency in India, 79% of loans approved are for individuals with a score of more than 750 (the range is 300-900).
Cost of a ‘free’ report
The RBI has told all credit bureaus to display the process of getting a free report on their websites, which the companies have done. However, the process and the time taken to get this report varies for all of them. Here is the story of Mint Money’s search for the free report, with all the credit bureaus.
CRIF High Mark: When you access the site, you will find a link to the process for a free credit report on the home page (www.crifhighmark.com). After you click the link, you have to first provide your Know-Your -Customer (KYC) details such as: name, address, email, mobile number and Permanent Account Number (PAN). The company took 2 days to verify the details. It then sent an email, which led to a webpage. Here one needs to authenticate her credit history, by answering a set of questions.
At this step, this correspondent was asked to register on the website to activate the account. Once the authentication was done, the report came in a day’s time on email. This correspondent got a report from CRIF High Mark in a total of 7 days. No charges were paid. In an email response to queries from Mint Money, CRIF High Mark said that the number of requests, for the free report, are still “very low”. “It indicates the low awareness levels around the concept of credit scores in India.... We have upgraded our technology infrastructure as well as set up a dedicated support team for FFCR. This enables us to support much larger volumes of FFCR requests,” it said. The company did not share the number of requests for free credit reports processed so far.
Equifax: On the home page (www.equifax.co.in), you can find a prominent link with a process note to get the free report. The first step, according to the note, is that you have to download an app. This means that only those with a smartphone can access this free report. In order to get the free report from Equifax, this correspondent had to download its mobile application, which is available for Android and iOS devices. Along with the basic KYC details, sharing Aadhaar number is also mandatory to get the free report. One also needs to give permission to the company to use your Aadhaar and related information. Once this authentication is complete, this correspondent got the report in 2 days. In response to Mint Money queries, the company said that it has “delivered hundreds of requests in the first 15 days”. On 23 January, the number of downloads on Google Play store showed a thousand downloads for this app, up from 500 on 20 January. The number for iOS downloads is not known.
Experian: The homepage (www.experian.in) has the link to process the free credit report, but it is two pagedowns. The link to get a paid-for credit report is upfront, on the top. To get a free Experian report, the company has created a process where you need use a voucher code, instead of paying fee at the payment page. The voucher code is generated in a day’s time after you share your basic KYC details at: bit.ly/2khDQYP.
The process says that once you get the voucher code, the report can be had in a few steps, in a single session. The instructions are shared along with the code. After entering the voucher code, a few questions based on your credit history need to be answered. The emailed instructions state that after you complete this step: “Experian Credit Information Report (CIR) & Score is displayed and the PDF report is also emailed to your verified email address.” This correspondent could not get the report. After the questions for authentication were answered, the process collapsed and the next page did not load. On enquiry with the customer care, an email reply stated that the failure to authenticate “may be a resultant affect of thin credit file which lacks the minimum data requirement for authentication.” Two other colleagues who tried also could not complete the process. One did not get a voucher code. And for the other, the firm wanted details of a credit card, which the person does not use anymore.
The company has not responded to queries from Mint Money yet.
Transunion CIBIL: The link to the free credit report on the website is on the homepage (www.cibil.com), but tucked away at the bottom. The free report link directs you to a request form. To get the free report, you need to print the form and mail or courier it to the company, along with your KYC documents, at your own cost. For now, the application cannot be made online. The form is available at: http://bit.ly/2khz6C8.
This correspondent sent the application for a free report, but did not get any update for 7 days. The frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the site, at that time, had said that a free report will be sent within 30 calendar days after the documents are verified. By now, this correspondent had already sent a questionnaire to the company regarding credit reports in general.
Since then, the FAQs seem to have been updated. They now state that it would take 7 business days after verification. We have screenshots of the webpages for both cases. This correspondent could not get the promised ‘free’ report, after incurring courier charges for sending the form and KYC documents. Cibil said it is receiving “approximately 200 applications” per day for the free report. “We are also working on a fully automated system, which will be launched shortly,” the credit bureau said.
While the RBI has mandated a free credit report, we find that the process is not being followed in spirit.
The next story will document the credit scores we got. That’s another story.