Just Going About My Business: There are, it seems, many instances of credit records' companies holding erroneous information. This one instance came about when I rang my bank to make a polite enquiry. Upon doing so the gentleman I was speaking to asked me if I might like a Nat West credit card, offering 0% interest for a year. Interesting, I thought, bearing in mind I was trying to organise some new equipment for our band at the time, it could give me some leeway. On this basis, I said yes and he put me through to the relevant department. After going through the application and a lot of other sales blurb, my application was turned down. The lady I was speaking sounded rather embarrassed and apologetic as she explained that there was a problem with my credit reference record held with Equifax, whom the Nat West Bank use for their credit checks.

A Bit Put Out! As I had now spent a considerable time on the phone batting away the onslaught of everything thrown at me that I didn't want, whilst trying to get to bit that I did want, I was a bit put out that Nat West had now refused my application, after all, it was their idea in the first place. Also, I had been with this bank for some 35 years, and apart from my arranged overdraft and my loan, I had never been in debt with them. As far as I was concerned I was without financial blemish and felt that they should have no grounds to deny me. It was certainly very odd and, as the lady at the bank couldn't throw any light on what the problem was, I decided I had better contact Equifax and get to the bottom of it!

Enlightening! Upon contacting Equifax and explaining the situation, I was advised to register for a free online peek at the information they hold on you. You have to remember to cancel within 30 days, or they charge you. Upon looking I found out there was a record of an outstanding county court judgement. When I phoned the court I found out that this was leftover from a small scratch I imparted on my neighbour's car. It was not a bad scratch and our regular garage would have done it for £80. However, because it was a fairly new vehicle my neighbour wanted to take it to the Toyota garage where they bought it and put the claim through the insurance instead. Don't ask me why they thought this would be better as we had offered to get it done overnight by an experienced body shop specialist and I was prepared to pay for it out of my own pocket. I also promised my neighbour that if they were not 100% satisfied with the repair I would pay the consequences. However, I went along with their request, gave them my insurance details, and we let the insurance companies take care of it - so we thought.

Erroneous Information: The repair seemed to take ages to get done and, after some time, I actually received a court summons for some £1,281 pounds, which is apparently now what the £80 scratch was costing to have fixed. Having received this summons, which was addressed to me personally, I phoned my neighbour's solicitor to find out what was going on and why I had personally received this action against me. He was very nice and said no problem just tell your insurance company and they will take care of it. So I did, and they did. However, all this time later, I find out that the reason my Nat West credit card application was refused was because I still had a record of this county court judgement on my credit history and the record says that the judgement is still outstanding, i.e. it has not been settled or satisfied. Even though this problem had been sorted out months ago, nobody had dealt with it and nobody wanted to take responsibility.

Happens All The Time! In the end it was left to me to try and set the record straight and a succession of phone calls over several weeks. The ladies at the county court were very sympathetic and said they just needed a letter to say that it had been settled and they could amend their records. So I phoned my neighbour's solicitor to explain the situation and try and get the ball rolling. My neighbour's solicitor was very sympathetic and actually drafted and dispatched a letter to the court while I was on the phone to him. I asked him why it was I was being penalized when it was the insurance company that hadn't paid up on time and was surely now nothing to do with me. After all, that's the point of having insurance isn't it? He said that (for some reason) insurance companies cannot sue themselves, even though they’re the ones dealing with the claim, it is therefore the individual that gets taken to court, despite the fact that the responsibility should rest with the insurance company, if they are slow to settle, the individual is still liable. The ladies at the county court said this sort of thing happens all the time, well, what can I say? Perhaps someone should change the system then, because at the moment, it sucks!

Got There Eventually! A few days later I phoned the court and they found the letter for me, and again, while I was on the phone to them, they amended their records. When that is done, the information is forwarded to the Registry Trust and from there to the credit records' companies. All of this seemed to happen quite quickly, once the proceedings were initiated by the court. So, job done. Phew!

Hmm! However, my inspection also revealed certain anomalies with the system at that time in as much as Virgin Media TV, phone and broadband packages show up as additional credit accounts and but other utilities, such as gas and electric do not. Neither do Sky packages.

What A Palaver! In my investigation I did discover that if you want to speak to customer services, even with a free anytime telephone package, it's a long wait at 5p a minute and if you want to cancel your free 30 day trial on line, what should be a very straight forward click of a button, is a very convoluted pain-in-the-arse palaver, and not very clear at all. Plus if you want to look, in future, at the information they hold on you, you will then have to pay.

Free Anytime! Personally I think these companies are a bit of a con and just another part of our unfortunate society's greedy financial exploitation of the poor. However, if people are going to hold personal financial information on you which can affect your welfare, your livelihood and your business plan, you should be entitled and able to scrutinise it at any time, free of charge, especially when there's a likelihood that it can be erroneous!