In November 2023, MSE announced that its Credit Club report would soon switch to cover TransUnion data, not Experian data.
MSE has told subscribers:
The need-to-know change: Experian is stopping giving us access to its full credit report. So … we’re moving to one of the other three big credit reference agencies, TransUnion.
MSE has tried to dress this up – the first paragraph was headed The good news. It was enthusiastic but vague about a revamp of the credit report with more powerful tools. But this isn’t good news at all for many people.
Why this matters
Bad news – now no free report covers Experian data
There are three main Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
There are already free reports that cover TransUnion data: Credit Karma and Totally Money. And some banks give customers free access to TransUnion reports. And there are free reports for Equifax data: ClearScore; Finder and CredAbility.
But MSE’s Credit Club has been the only free report that covers Experian data. And now that will no longer exist.
Gaining yet another report on TransUnion data instead is a very poor exchange for UK consumers.
It’s important to be able to see all your data
The FCA found in 2022 that the same person’s score can vary widely across the three CRAs.
Some of this is because of reporting errors by lenders. Some is the result of a CRA error in not matching up the data from lenders with individuals correctly. And some is because many smaller lenders don’t report to all three CRAs.
These mistakes often aren’t minor. Public records such as insolvency and CCJs should be the same on every report you see, but the FCA found that they aren’t.
The result is that your Experian score can be dramatically different to your score on one of the other two CRAs.
If you have an important credit application coming up in the next year, it is a very good idea to check all three CRAs. Even if you are sure you have never missed a payment in your life, there may be errors – or a CCJ about a parking ticket you knew nothing about.
Mistakes can take months to correct. You do not want a mortgage lender to reject an application because of an error that you knew nothing about as you were only looking at one credit report.
Do you need to do anything?
Accessing your Experian data
There are two options for people who can afford to pay for reports::
- Experian charges £14.99 a month for its Credit Expert report.
- Check My File also charges £14.99. That report gives your credit score and data from all three main CRAs, including Experian.
If you are happy to pay for this, Check My File seems better value than Experian as you could then ditch the other free credit reports. Only one report a month and less clutter in your inbox!
But many people who want to check their credit score and records are in financial difficulty. Or have better uses for £180 a year than paying for a credit report. Here there are several options, none of them great. See The best free ways to check your credit record which looks at the options for all the CRAs including Experian.
Decide whether to carry on with MSE’s Credit Club
If you don’t currently get another report on TransUnion data, you may as well keep the MSE Credit Club one.
If you already have a TransUnion report such as Credit Karma, then you don’t need the MSE Credit Club one as well – the two reports are going to have the same data.
So decide whether MSE’s Credit Club or Credit Karma is easiest to use. Then unsubscribe from the other one.
NB easiest to use isn’t the one with the highest credit score at the moment! After this MSE switch, the two reports are going to have the same credit score and details. That’s why you only need one of them.
UK credit reporting is a mess
Credit reporting needs a total overhaul
The announcement that Experian will no longer supply MSE with data illustrates the current confusing mess, where no one is looking out for the interest of consumers.
What most consumers want is:
- a single free credit report that has all of their data;
- the report should have a single credit score;
- a system where errors are simple and fast to correct.
The FCA has been looking at improvements to the credit information markets since 2019. This is moving glacially slowly and the FCA isn’t focussing on consumer issues. It seems obsessed with encouraging competition among the CRAs – when the last thing we need is more CRAs or more credit reporting firms.
Why has Experian done this?
The reason will be money. Experian, the other CRAs, and the credit reporting firms like MSE are doing this to make profits, not for the benefit of their customers.
The MSE email makes it sound like it’s Experian’s fault that things have changed – “Experian is stopping giving us access to its full credit report”. Perhaps Experian wanted to charge MSE a lot more. Perhaps Experian wants more people to use its Credit Expert service. But perhaps MSE decided to switch because TransUnion will charge less.
We are unlikely to ever find out the details.
Poor communication from MSE
MSE has often been a good voice for consumers in the UK. So it is disappointing that its email about these changes hasn’t been clearer.
The email implies that the important thing is getting subscribers’ permission to send their details to TransUnion so MSE can get TransUnion data.
But that is just a GDPR headache for MSE. The important thing for customers is explaining why CRAs don’t all have the same data and suggesting they may want to check all three CRAs.
MSE would be rightly critical of an energy company that failed to explain the implications of a change to its customers. Especially if the first words in the email were Good News and that was misleading.