Data protectionMarket-Check reveals deficiencies in online credit ratings

Today, the Consumer Association North Rhine-Westphalia (VZ NRW) presented results of a Market-Check on consumers’ free right to information at credit rating agencies. As part of the project „Current challenges of consumer policy in the digital world“, VZ NRW commissioned the GP research group early 2016 to conduct a sample survey. For this, about a dozen of consumers gathered information at five different credit rating agencies (Creditreform Boniversum, Bürgel, Deltavista, arvato infoscore, SCHUFA).

The survey reveals the following results:

  • Generally, creditworthiness of consumers plays a central role in the purchase of mobile, credit or other contracts conducted online.
  • Credit rating requests run automatically and unnoticed in the background of most online transactions. Such requests addressed at credit rating agencies are not only initiated with different forms of payment, but already by merely opening certain websites.
  • Moreover, for many banks, mobile companies and online retailers it is common practice to request the creditworthiness of customers as part of nearly every business transaction, without informing the customer about it.
  • On websites of the examined agencies, free information on which personal data is being saved for evaluating creditworthiness is, however, hidden or at hard to find. This bears the risk for consumers to pay for information, which they could have obtained for free otherwise. 

In this context, the VZ NRW calls for an update of the Federal Data Protection Act. Wolfgang Schuldzinski, Director of VZ NRW, noted: „The access to free information online often turns into a game of hide-and-seek. And anyone who obtains the corresponding information, is often left with a sealed book. This is because it remains unclear how the collected data is weighted and why some consumers are categorized into a specific risk group. (…) By law, credit agencies should be obliged to transparently and clearly point to the free right to information and clarify with the help of available factsheets, that incorrect data needs to be corrected. (…) Last but not least: Agencies have to be obligated to inform consumers automatically as soon as possible about significantly deteriorated scoring values and about why this downgrade happened.”

Source: Consumer Association North Rhine-Westphalia

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