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Lenders eye phone-bill debts to spot rogue clients

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Missing a couple of mobile phone payments could now jeopardise consumers’ chances of buying a home, getting a loan or taking out a credit card, as lenders seek new ways to weed out rogue borrowers.

Mortgage lenders, banks and credit card companies contact credit reference agencies, which hold records on consumers, before deciding whether to accept new customers. But firms are becoming increasingly wary of lending to those who have minor transgressions on their records, and are demanding more detailed information from credit reference agencies.

Neil Munroe, external affairs director for Equifax, the credit reference agency, said: “The overwhelming evidence is that lenders are looking at data in more depth.

“Minor misdeameanours are becoming more relevent, especially for first-time buyers. A consumer’s mobile phone credit history would previously have been seen as secondary information. Now it is being scrutinised.”

It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of the 24.4 million contract mobile phone users pay their bills late or do not pay at all.

James Jones, of Call Credit, a credit reference agency, said: “Lenders, utility and phone providers are sharing more information about their customers. This has to be welcomed as companies not only have to see how customers have paid off debts in the past, but also what they owe now.” Lenders have become increasingly wary of taking on risky customers amid soaring consumer debt and rising interest rates.

Debt-laden consumers in Britain owe in excess of £1.3 trillion, including more than £50 billion on credit cards alone.

Citizens Advice recently said that it dealt with 1.7 million inquiries about debt, putting it ahead of welfare rights and other issues.

The recent credit crunch is likely to pile on the pressure even further.

 
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