Banned for a debt of pounds 32,000. But he didn't owe a penny

Blunder over Barclaycard application highlights doubts about accuracy of credit-vetting agencies

Jaz Stichaw could not believe his eyes. He had been turned down for a Barclaycard because he was pounds 32,000 in the red.

But Mr Stichaw had never once been in debt. A 32-year-old lawyer he had always been careful with his finances. Barclaycard had been informed that this was his financial status by the credit-reference agency Equifax and had turned down his application accordingly.

As a lawyer, Mr Stichaw knew what action to take, deciding to sue Equifax, eventually settling out of court. But for other people the way forward may not be so clear.

Credit-reference agencies have claimed that the mistakes they make account for less than 1 per cent. But the Data Protection Registrar is now considering investigating the accuracy of credit-reference agencies after a survey which suggested that errors on people's files may be far more common than previously thought.

Each week, nearly 400,000 people apply for credit - whether it is setting up a bank account, applying for a storecard or getting an interest-free loan on a car. Credit-reference files provide a snapshot of how a person manages their finances. Negative information about defaults of county court judgments for non-payment of debts stays on your record for six years and can lead to people being turned down.

There are three credit-reference agencies in Britain - Equifax, CCN and CDMS. Between them they hold 135 million files containing electoral roll information, public record information and information supplied by lenders.

A survey for tonight's edition of the Channel 4 programme, Dosh, found that a third of people had some sort of mistake on their files. Some were minor ones which could lead to confusion but others were serious which could lead to people being wrongly refused credit.

Of the 30 people who sent off for their files, 13 people found errors. These included mistakenly attributed court judgments, factual errors concerning mortgages and wrong residents at the wrong address.

More serious situations can result as Mr Stichaw found some time ago when his application for Barclaycard was turned down. "I was completely disgusted that Equifax had passed such information to Barclaycard because it was wrong and highly offensive," he said. "Equifax had told Barclaycard that I had over pounds 32,000 worth of debt and I was completely horrified because I'm careful about finances and I certainly had no debts.

"As a lawyer I recognised that that was slanderous. And because of that I issued a high court writ." The case was eventually settled out of court.

David Smith of the Data Protection Office said: "It's a slur on their character, they can't understand why it has happened. It's because of some personal information they have no control over. We get people phoning our office in tears about these decisions ... they really are important to people."

He said that the ombudsman was considering a feasibility study to look into the amount of errors creeping into files. "At present, we only see people who complain - these people know they have a problem," he said. "But others may not know if there are problems. If you apply for credit and get it you may be quite happy but it doesn't mean the information on your file is necessarily right. and it could affect you in future applications...

"There's a lot more credit-reference agencies could do to ensure the information is right."

Kevin Still, group marketing director for Equifax said: "The majority of errors occur in the information supplied to us, such as county court judgments or information supplied by the lenders themselves.

"We get 1,300 requests a day of which 20 per cent result in queries. Of those, several require detailed investigation and it is in the order of one, two or three need some change because there is a material error."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam