A credit report shows your history of paying bills and borrowing money. Banks and others considering doing business with you look at your credit report to decide whether you’re trustworthy.
Understand your legal rights
A credit report contains details of a person’s history of paying bills and borrowing money, and other information about them. Credit reports are prepared by credit reporting agencies, also called credit bureaus. The two main ones in Canada are Equifax and TransUnion. These agencies collect information from banks and businesses, and from public documents like court and marriage records.
Under the law in BC, you have the right to see your credit report. The credit reporting agencies must mail you a free copy if you ask. You can call Equifax toll-free at 1-800-465-7166 or TransUnion at 1-800-663-9980.
Credit reporting agencies use a formula to turn the credit information they have about you into a credit score. Your score, also called your credit rating, can range from 300 to 900. A high score is good.
You won’t see your credit score on your credit report. But for a fee, you can get your credit score from Equifax or TransUnion.
Under the law in BC, a credit reporting agency can’t share your credit report without your permission. (There are three exceptions to this rule, which we will explain.)
When someone asks to see your credit report
Banks and other lenders, potential employers and landlords might want to see your credit report to see if you are trustworthy. This is called a credit check. It helps them decide whether to lend you money, hire you, or rent to you.
You don’t have to consent to a credit check. If you refuse, the bank or other party requesting the credit check can also refuse to do business with you.
Your consent to a credit check is sometimes folded into an application for credit, employment, or tenancy. By signing the application, you agree to the check. But by law, the consent must be prominently displayed and easy to understand.
Situations where your consent is not required
Under the law in BC, there are certain situations where credit reporting agencies don’t need your consent to share a copy of your credit report. You have no choice when the credit report is requested by:
- the federal, provincial, or municipal government
- the police, for the purposes of an investigation
- anyone with a court order authorizing access to your credit report
Under the law in BC, some information can’t be part of your credit report:
- information about any member of your family other than your spouse
- your race, religious beliefs, skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnic background or political views
- criminal convictions that have been discharged or pardoned
- criminal charges that were withdrawn or dismissed
There’s also information that can’t be part of your credit report if it is more than six years old:
- a court judgment against you (unless you haven’t paid what you owe)
- a criminal conviction
- a bankruptcy (unless you’ve been bankrupt more than once)
- any other negative information about you
Under BC law, you have the right to ask a credit reporting agency to fix any mistake you find in your credit report. You can send a letter about the error, and the credit reporting agency must take reasonable steps to check the information and respond to you within 30 working days.
If the credit reporting agency agrees to make the correction, it must do so promptly. It must also send the new correct information to anyone who received your credit report in the last year.
If the agency doesn’t make the correction you asked for, it must make a note in your file that you asked for the information to be corrected.
Also, if there’s anything in your file you think should be explained, you have the right to add an explanation of up to 100 words. The credit reporting agency attaches it to your report and anyone who orders a copy sees it.
The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner oversees BC’s laws relating to privacy and access to information. If a credit reporting agency refuses your request for a copy of your credit report, you can ask the Privacy Commissioner to review the decision. If someone gets their hands on your credit report improperly, the Commissioner has the power to investigate.
Consumer Protection BC can help with certain problems with credit reports. For example, where information on your credit report is over six years old, or where you were denied the opportunity to provide an explanation on your credit report.
The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner oversees BC’s laws relating to privacy and access to information. If a credit reporting agency refuses your request to fix a mistake, you can ask the Privacy Commissioner to review the decision.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in October 2017
Time to read: 4 minutes