credit bureau

A credit bureau or consumer reporting agency (United States), or credit reference agency (United Kingdom) is a company that collects information from various sources and provides consumer credit information on individual consumers for a variety of uses. It is an organization providing information on individuals' borrowing and bill-paying habits. Credit information such as a person’s previous loan performance is a powerful tool to predict his future behavior. Such credit information institutions reduce the effect of asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders, and alleviate problems of adverse selection and moral hazard. For example, adequate credit information could facilitate lenders in screening and monitoring borrowers as well as avoid giving loans to high risk individuals. This helps lenders assess credit worthiness, the ability to pay back a loan, and can affect the interest rate and other terms of a loan. Interest rates are not the same for everyone, but instead can be based on risk-based pricing, a form of price discrimination based on the different expected risks of different borrowers, as set out in their credit rating. Consumers with poor credit repayment histories or court adjudicated debt obligations like tax liens or bankruptcies will pay a higher annual interest rate than consumers who don't have these factors. Additionally, decision-makers in areas unrelated to consumer credit, including employment screening and underwriting of property and casualty insurance, increasingly depend on credit records, as studies have shown that such records have predictive value. At the same time, consumers also benefit from a good credit information system because it reduces the effect of credit monopoly from banks, and it provides incentives for borrowers to repay their loans on time. In the U.S., credit bureaus collect and aggregate personal information, financial data, and alternative data on individuals from a variety of sources called data furnishers with which the bureaus have a relationship. Data furnishers are typically creditors, lenders, utilities, debt collection agencies and the courts (i.e. public records) that a consumer has had a relationship or experience with. Data furnishers report their payment experience with the consumer to the credit bureaus. The data provided by the furnishers as well as collected by the bureaus are then aggregated into the credit bureau's data repository or files. The resulting information is made available on request to customers of the credit bureau for the purposes of credit risk assessment, credit scoring or for other purposes such as employment consideration or leasing an apartment. Given the large number of consumer borrowers, these credit scores tend to be mechanistic. To simplify the analytical process for their customers, the different credit bureaus can apply a mathematical algorithm to provide a score the customer can use to more rapidly assess the likelihood that an individual will repay a particular debt given the frequency that other individuals in similar situations have defaulted. Most consumer welfare advocates advise individuals to review their credit reports at least once a year to ensure they are accurate. Commercial credit reporting and scoring bureaus also exist, and can be used to evaluate the likelihood of a business paying creditors. Examples of commercial credit reports are the Paydex score from Dun & Bradstreet, the Experian Intelliscore, the CPR Score from Cortera, and the CIC Score and NACM National Trade Credit Report from the National Association of Credit Management. TransUnion and Equifax are also examples of commercial credit bureaus.