A Cornwall-based credit- reference agency is to launch a free online service ( www.annualcreditreport.co.uk) available to anyone who wants to check their credit file. The Credit Reporting Agency, which has access to the files on individuals held by all of the UK's major reference agencies, will offer the service locally from next week, and nationwide in August.
The service will enable anyone in the UK to check the information that lenders hold about them through one online check. Currently, people have to check their files with several different agencies, including Equifax, Experian and CallCredit.
And consumers generally have to pay for each search - a £2 fee is typical - though individual agencies have started to make special offers or free trials.
"This is something that should be free to consumers all the time," said Barry Stamp, managing director of the new agency. "One in three people who consult their credit reference files say that they have found an error in the information held about them, so this is really crucial."
Under data-protection laws, everyone has a right to request details of their files from credit reference agencies, which lenders access when they are making decisions about applications for financial services such as loans. However, most people only consult their files after they have been turned down for credit.
"Monitoring your file is also an important weapon in the battle against identity theft," Stamp added. "This is something that needs to be made easier for people to do for that reason alone."