What to do if Your Information is Incorrect
With so much information available about you on so many databases, it's perfectly possible that some of it is either inaccurate or incorrect. That can create problems. Decisions regarding your creditworthiness and your future can end up being made on this information, so you need it to be precise. But if you find that it's not, what can you do?
Your RightsThe Data Protection Act is on your side. If you discover that an organisation has data about you that's wrong (you can obtain the information from them under the "right of subject access"), you can write to them stating the problem and how you want it fixed.
You can contact them by letter or e-mail; make sure you give proof of your identity and explain what data you're contesting. If you're sending a letter, use recorded delivery and keep copies of any correspondence. If you don't know who to send it to, just address it to the Company Secretary.
If there's no reply, write again making sure you enclose a copy of your original request. If this still produces no results, or the organisation refuses to make the changes you desire, you can ask the Information Commissioner to make an assessment of "whether it's likely or not that the processing of your data has been carried out in a way that complies with the Act" - a far from exact science. However, be aware that the Commissioner's decision carries no legal weight.
You can also take the organisation to court to force it to make the changes to your data. If you satisfy the court that the data is incorrect, they might order it altered or even destroyed. They can also order the organisation to add a statement of the proper facts. Within limits, they can also order the organisation to supply this new information to people who've already received the data. You might even be eligible for compensation.
The rules don't just apply to data on computer; they also cover what are called "accessible records," which is manual data from a health, education or social work record before 1988.
Credit FileCredit reference agencies have huge databases on the credit histories of consumers. When consulted, agencies can give the following information on you: your open credit accounts (with limits, current balances, the number of late payments and any collection actions), whether you're a homeowner, if any tax liens exist against you, CCJ's, bankruptcies and repossession orders.
You can order a copy of your credit file for £2 from one of the credit reference agencies:
Experian Consumer Help Service
PO Box 8000
Tel: 0115 941 0888
Credit Advice Centre
PO Box 1140
Tel: 08705 143700
You have the right to challenge the accuracy of your credit file. If you challenge a particular item, legally the agency must investigate and if it's incorrect they must remove it immediately. Challenge every error separately and always do it in writing.
When you write, include documentation to support your challenge. If the credit bureau doesn't verify your challenge within a reasonable time (generally about a month), talk to a solicitor.