Consumers

Credit Reports

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Your bank, car dealer, future landlord: all these businesses and people can ask you for permission to see your credit report. Why? To know whether you pay your bills on time.

What is a credit report?

A “credit report” is a document with information about your financial situation, including personal information about you.  It identifies you, says what money you owe, and whether you pay your debts.

A credit report contains the following information:

  • personal information: name, current address, former addresses, date of birth, social insurance number, etc.
  • credit information: credit cards, lines of credit, loans and mortgages, debts you’ve been unable to pay, etc.
  • banking information: bank accounts, cheques returned for lack of funds, etc.
  • public information: bankruptcies, court decisions, lawsuits taken against you, etc.
  • additional information: for example, a note that you were the victim of identity theft or any other information that could help in understanding your report
  • information about people or institutions who have looked at the report
  • your credit score: a number between 300 and 900 determined by applying a mathematical formula to the information in your credit report.

How is it created?

In Canada, the main credit bureaus are Equifax and TransUnion. These companies collect and update information about your finances and make this information available to their customers.

This information comes from businesses and banking institutions. For example, your credit card company can inform the credit bureau of the frequency of your payments and how often you are late. The same goes for any company from which you purchased an item or a service in instalments.

However, these organizations usually require your authorization before sending information to the credit bureau. This authorization often forms part of the contract you’ve signed with them.

How long will your “old” information remain in your credit report?

A maximum of seven years. After that, the credit bureau must destroy it.

Consulting, correcting, and protecting your credit report

With  Equifax and TransUnion you can:

You have the right to consult your credit report free of charge online. This will show your credit score along with explanations to help you understand it.

If you would like a paper copy of your credit report, the credit bureau has the right to a “reasonable charge” to make a copy and send it to you. It must tell you the amount in advance.

Your credit report may contain a statement you disagree with. For example, you believe that a judgment mentioned in the report, that ordered you to pay a sum of money, is no longer relevant because you have paid in full and have the proof.

In this situation, you can ask the credit bureau to remove it from your report. If the credit bureau refuses, you can ask to add an explanatory note providing your version of the facts.

The explanatory note must provide your version without defaming anyone.  The note will remain in your report until

  • you ask that it be withdrawn,
  • you reach an agreement with the credit bureau,
  • a court decision settles the matter, or
  • the Commission d’accès à l’information (access to information commission) rejects your application for examination of a disagreement.

If you believe you were the victim of identity theft or a data leak, it may be wise to ask the credit bureau to activate a security alert or a lock on your credit report.

When a security alert has been activated, any business or person who sees your credit report must call you to confirm your identity before doing business with you.

When a credit lock is in effect, access to your credit report will be temporarily blocked to prevent an identity thief from doing business in your name with:

  • Hydro-Québec
  • a telecommunications business (for example, telephone, internet, cable TV),
  • a business offering credit cards or “buy now, pay later” deals.
  • a business that leases goods for four months or more (for example, a car).

However, certain other businesses or persons, such as a future landlord, will still have access to your credit report before doing business with you.

Security alerts and credit locks remain in effect until you request removal.

How to make the request

Follow the instructions on the Equifax and TransUnion websites.

There is no charge for correcting your record or adding a security alert. Reasonable fees can be charged if you request a credit lock.

If your request is missing some information, or if you need special accommodations due to a disability, credit bureaus are required by law to show flexibility and to assist you with your request.

The credit bureau must answer you  

The credit bureau must answer you within a reasonable time.

For requests to consult or correct your credit report, the law requires the bureau to answer within 30 days of receiving your request.

If the credit bureau refuses your request, it must explain why, answer your questions, and inform you of your recourses for contesting its refusal.

Here are your recourses if the credit bureau does not answer you, refuses your request, or you are otherwise dissatisfied with its response:

  • For a correction request, you can contact the Commission d’accès à l’information.
  • In other cases, you can contact the Commission d’accès à l’information if the credit bureau explicitly refused your request. If the credit bureau does not answer, you should contact the l’Autorité des marchés financiers  (securities commission). You should also contact the l’Autorité des marchés financiers if the credit bureau does not follow upon your request after accepting it.

If you make a mistake and send your complaint to the wrong organization, the Commission d’accès à l’information will send it to the Autorité des marchés financiers, and vice versa.

For more information see our article on your rights and recourses regarding personal information.

When a person or business wants to consult your credit report

A person or business, such as a future landlord or a bank, can consult your credit report before offering you goods or services. This is often called “doing a credit check”. You have rights during this process.

Before the credit check

The person or business can only consult your credit report if it is truly necessary for the product or service in question. They must also have your consent.

It’s therefore important to carefully read your contract with them and think about it. Is it really necessary to do a credit check? Is there a less invasive alternative? In the case of signing a lease, for example, alternatives are available.

You are not required to allow someone to consult your credit report. Of course, if you refuse, the business or person who made the request may decide not to do business with you.

If you are refused products or services because you felt it was unnecessary to give access to your credit report, based on the nature of the product or service in question, you can file a complaint with the Commission d’accès à l’information.

After the credit check

If you agree to a credit check and are refused a product or a service afterward, you can consult and correct your credit report if it contains incorrect, incomplete, or ambiguous information. Anyone who consulted your credit report in the past six months will be notified that it has been corrected.

Businesses must generally inform you of your right to see and correct the credit check. They must also answer any questions and tell you if their refusal is based on your credit report. The following types of businesses must do this:

  • Hydro-Québec,
  • telecommunications businesses (for example, telephone, internet and cable TV),
  • businesses offering credit cards or “buy now, pay later” deals,
  • businesses that lease goods for four months or more (for example, a car).

Reporting a questionable practice

If you suspect that a business or a credit bureau is not respecting the law, you can let them know your concerns. You can also file a complaint with the Commission d’accès à l’information.  

Did you know?

You have rights and recourses to protect all types of personal information – not just those in your credit report. For more information, see our article on the topic.