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What Is a Credit Bureau? Important Information for Canadian Consumers

What Is a Credit Bureau? Important Information for Canadian Consumers

Whether we realize it or not, credit bureaus have a significant impact on our financial lives. The information they provide to lenders can determine mortgage rates, lending amounts, and credit card approvals. But what exactly is a credit bureau, and what can you do with their information?

What Is a Credit Bureau?

A credit bureau, also known as a credit reporting agency, is a company that collects information from banks or other financial institutions about your credit and lending history. Lenders use this information when making lending decisions to determine your creditworthiness.

The following is information reported to a credit bureau:

  • Personal/demographic information
  • Credit account information
  • Credit inquiry information
  • Collections information and public records (e.g., bankruptcy)

The 3 Major Credit Bureaus in Canada

There are 2 major consumer credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax, and Transunion. Both are public, independent, privately-owned companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Equifax and Transunion focus on fraud prevention, and both offer free educational resources on their website. They also both have business credit reporting on top of consumer credit reports.

Dun & Bradstreet is the third credit reporting agency in Canada, but its focus is solely corporate credit reporting.

Equifax

Equifax is a global company that currently operates in 24 countries.

They offer a variety of paid credit monitoring services and products. Prices range from $11.95 to $29.95 per month, depending on what you would like access to.

Companies can also access Equifax’s business services, including (but not limited to) employment background screening, collections, fraud reduction, and identity verification.

Transunion

Transunion is also a global company, but they currently operate in 33 countries.

You are entitled to view your consumer disclosure (what Transunion calls your credit report) once per year for free.

Transunion doesn’t offer as many different product options as Equifax, but you can access information and score monitoring, and identity theft protection (up to $50,000) for $19.95 per month.

Just like with Equifax, companies can access Transunion’s small business credit reporting. Their services include collections and recovery, credit reporting, and analytics, and consulting, just to name a few.

Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet is a credit reporting agency solely for corporate lenders. They offer a Business Information Report on Demand that costs more than a consumer credit report. Corporate lenders use the information provided by Dun & Bradstreet to determine the creditworthiness of corporations.

Regulating Credit Reporting Agencies

Each province and territory has adopted legislation to protect consumer rights as they pertain to credit bureaus. The following are 5 standard regulations for credit reporting agencies:

  • The lender must have a permissible purpose to access the credit report for someone.
  • The lender must advise the consumer of any adverse action that affects their application.
  • The credit bureau must supply a copy of your credit report to you upon request. After a dispute or investigation, previous inquirers must be notified of any changes to a consumer’s credit report.
  • Positive credit information can remain on a consumer’s credit report for up to 20 years.

The Reasons Your Credit Score and Information May Be Different

There are 2 main reasons why your credit score and information may differ by credit bureau or lender.

First, lenders are not obligated to report your credit information to a credit reporting agency (or both). Lenders can disclose your credit information to Equifax, Transunion, both, or neither.

Secondly, each credit bureau and lender has its proprietary way of calculating your credit score. Some calculations may favour specific credit score components over others. And although there are multiple ways of calculating your credit score, the result shouldn’t differ too much.

How to Access Your Free Credit Report

There are a few different ways that you can access your free annual report from both Equifax and Transunion.

Equifax

You can request a copy of your report by mail, phone, or in person.

  • By mailprint application form and mail to the address on the form
  • By phone – call 1-800-465-7166 (be prepared to provide your SIN)
  • In-person – at one of 4 physical locations (Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Charlottetown)

Transunion

You can request a copy of your report online, by mail, phone, or in person.

  • Online – complete online application form
  • By mailprint application form and mail to the address on the form
  • By phone – call 1-800-663-9980 (be prepared to provide your SIN)
  • In-person – at one of 3 physical locations (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario)

What to Do If You Notice Incorrect Information or Are a Victim of Fraud

The first thing you should do is contact the specific lender directly. Once you have done that, then contact the credit bureau (or both). And if your Social Insurance Number was compromised, make sure also to report that to Service Canada.

When you report fraudulent information, the credit bureau will put an alert on your file that will stay there for 6 years (or until you remove it). The fraud alert will inform any lender to contact you directly by phone before extending any credit to you.

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