Creating a healthy and informed attitude to credit
The number of consumers we interact with every day is huge. We provide consumer credit bureau services, directly or with a joint venture partner, in 19 major economies including the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom. We help millions of people to manage their credit profile and protect themselves from identity theft, as well as providing thousands of free credit reports to people through debt advice charities.
We are committed to ensuring that the people we interact with receive fair and honest treatment. Although we are legally obliged to provide a high level of service, for example by meeting legal standards to provide information to consumers on request, we believe our responsibilities to consumers go beyond this.
Our business model depends on consumers having a healthy and informed attitude to credit, so they can borrow responsibly. This means working to inform and empower consumers, raising their financial awareness, educating them on topics around responsible credit and even building their skills in areas such as debt negotiation.
Investing in new services to meet the needs of consumers
We are continually improving and investing in our consumer support services. Recognising that more and more people shop and manage their finances online, we have strengthened our social media capabilities so we can deliver more of our advice and support tools via the internet, including Facebook, Twitter and Google Hangouts. For example, in the UK and Ireland, we have significantly increased our presence on social media and consumer forums, such as moneysavingexpert.com. This has helped us reach many more consumers and we now have a following of around 50,000 people.
We monitor emerging consumer trends to make sure we respond quickly and effectively to people’s needs. For example, in February 2014, we announced the launch of a real time data sharing service in the UK and Ireland. Developed in response to consumers’ increasing demand for short-term credit, this service gives credit providers instant access to personal financial information. These loans are typically small, fast transactions, making it difficult for credit providers to fully understand the nature of a person’s debt before agreeing a loan. Sharing data in real time helps protect consumers from taking on unmanageable debt, as all lenders can now instantly access up-to-date details of an applicant’s creditworthiness. This means lenders can make a responsible decision about offering an affordable loan.
In new markets, we are helping to empower and protect consumers by creating new services. For example, following the opening of Experian’s Consumer Credit Bureau in Australia, we launched our Fraud Bureau service in November 2013, enabling credit providers to share data to help predict fraud. Australians are estimated to lose more than AUD$1 billion a year due to personal fraud, so our service can make a substantial difference. In the first three months, our service helped increase fraud prediction rates by 14%. We also launched our Corrections Exchange service in Australia, so consumers can resolve queries about their profile within 30 days, by quickly establishing the accuracy of disputed information.
Promoting financial education for consumers
We develop long-term partnerships to deliver consumer advice, giving us a reach we could not achieve alone. In North America, we have a long-standing programme to raise financial awareness and promote responsible behaviour among consumers. Our partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) aims to increase consumers’ understanding of credit, so they can make educated financial decisions. Together, we have developed the My Money Checkup tool, available in both English and Spanish, to help consumers understand their finances and how they can improve their situation.
At the NFCC’s annual conference in October 2013, we hosted the Being a Credit Ambassador workshop for its members. This included advice on helping consumers to build and restore their credit profile, prevent fraud and learn to manage their credit and debt. To complement the NFCC’s newly launched financial education programme, Sharpen Your Financial Focus, we also donated 80,000 annual memberships to our Freecreditscore.com product.
In the UK and Ireland, we partner with the Money Advice Trust. It works with more than 12,000 people each month, providing free and impartial debt advice through its National Debtline and Business Debtline services. We provide financial support and expert advice, using our insights to help direct the Trust’s services by showing the locations of vulnerable consumers who may be struggling with their debts. We also provide tens of thousands of free credit reports each year via the National Debtline. With our support, the Trust aims to help 3.5 million people to tackle their debts and manage their money wisely by 2016.
Consumer education champions
Across our business, we have a network of dedicated champions for consumer education and financial awareness. We produce huge amounts of free educational material, striving to reach consumers through as many channels as possible. Our experts regularly appear in the press and on television and radio, to raise awareness of financial topics and to promote responsible lending.
People often do not realise that advice and support are available, so we focus on reaching as many as possible. For example, working with the UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC, we supported their Borrowing Britain campaign by creating ‘heat maps’ of the UK, showing where people are likely to be struggling with debts. This powerful insight highlighted the importance of financial education, particularly among vulnerable people.