Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Another credit bureau to access utility companies' databases

Published:Wednesday | December 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Craig Stephen, CEO of CreditInfo.

CreditInfo Jamaica, one of three credit bureaus operating locally, is finalising arrangements that could allow local utility companies to share information with it about their customers.

Craig Stephen, CEO of CreditInfo Jamaica, said his company has submitted contracts to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and the National Water Commission (NWC) and is engaged in negotiations with both entities.

"We are qualifying the technicals in terms of how they will submit data and the timeliness of that process," Stephen said told The Gleaner.

"I would like to make the public aware that come 2017, utility and telecoms data will be in the credit bureau database," he added.

CreditInfo Jamaica is looking to join its competitor, CRIF NM Assure Limited, which has already put arrangements in place to allow JPS and telecommunications company FLOW to share information about their customers.

JPS indicated that it would start sharing information in November, while FLOW said it would require new customers, or those amending their services, to provide specific identification documents, starting January 3, next year.

CreditInfo is one of three companies operating in Jamaica since the enactment of the Credit Reporting Act in 2010. In 2014, then Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips signed an order under the Act which enabled credit bureaus to collect customer information from utility companies.

Asserting that there is a large number of persons with credit arrangements that should be captured in the database, Stephen expressed unease that the National Housing Trust is not sharing information on its customers.

NO NEED TO WORRY

"Not having the largest mortgagor in the database is not something we are comfortable with ... because many times people get their credit report and they are like, 'Where is my mortgage?'" he said.

However, Stephen argued that engaging the utility companies will bring more people into the net and said Jamaicans need not be nervous about his company accessing their personal information.

"They have a large database of individuals who have been demonstrating payment history over the years. People would say it's not credit, but the reality is you don't pay for your light before you actually use it," he argued.

"If you pay your bills, I don't see why you should be worried. I think you should actually be happy and say 'yes, I have one more thing to boost my [credit] score with; I have one more thing to demonstrate to a potential lender that I am credit-worthy'," he said.

"And for those who don't have the credit cards and other types of credit to demonstrate, this is a good avenue as well," Stephen added.

However, the CreditInfo CEO acknowledged that under the scoring model used by his company, data from utility companies does not affect an individual's credit score.

So the obvious question is: Why capture the data?

"A credit report is not just a score. It is a representation of the information contained therein. It's also a detailed description of your credit history, and people who are looking to deliberate on what your risk is would like more information to make a more informed decision," he reasoned.

As a result, Stephen said his company will have to determine whether data from utility companies should be included in its scoring system.

He urged Jamaicans to get a copy of their credit report, pointing out that every individual is entitled to one free copy each year.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com