An investigation by PinkNews.co.uk reporter Jane Fae reveals that one of the UK’s largest credit scorers, Equifax, is discriminatory in its treatment of trans individuals.
The consequences of this discovery are potentially huge – and costly – as discriminatory treatment means quite possibly that the trans community is being treated unlawfully, not just by Equifax, but by any third party company that uses Equifax’ services when issuing credit cards.
The discovery came about after a number of complaints from trans men and women who felt they had been treated badly when applying for credit in their new name. The UK has two credit scoring agencies – Experian, the largest, and Equifax – and complaints appeared mostly to cite Equifax.
Both companies have put in place systems to deal with individuals who have “gone all the way” and obtained a gender recognition certificate. In fact, their approach in such circumstances is exemplary, and positively helpful to those trying to get their new name and status recognised across a range of financial service providers.
Difficulties arise when an individual simply changes their name. According to Equifax Director of Regulatory Affairs, Neil Munroe, the company runs two procedures. He told us: “The name change can be held as an “alias”, in which case, both the old name and details associated to that record and the new name and details associated to that record will be linked and, on an organisation applying to us for details on the new name, we will provide information back to the organisation on both individuals from both records automatically.”
Or: “the new name can be associated to the old. In this case the organisation requesting the data will be made aware that there is a link and the organisation may then request further information . . . The organisation may also be alerted to the existence of a correction notice (which is added in these cases) which will state that the two are in fact one and the same.”
In other words, anyone whose records are amended using the association route will almost inevitably be “outed” as trans every time they apply for credit.
The difficulty arises because whilst Experian adopt the “alias” approach for all its customers, once it is satisfied that a name change has been made, it only offers the “alias” route for women where a name change is brought about by marriage or divorce: from Ms/Miss to Mrs or vice-versa.
According to one legal expert, this certainly appears to be discriminatory. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to provide goods or services in a manner that discriminates according to one or more of the “protected characteristics” given – and this includes trans.
If it does prove to be unlawful, then not only would Equifax be in the firing line, but also any other company that makes use of its services. We did ask other credit card providers, including BHS and Barclaycard, for a comment on this matter, but they have yet to get back to us.
The response of the community has been mixed, with one activist stoically saying that such treatment is entirely expected and others rather more upset.
For all that, we do not believe there is any malicious intent on Equifax’s part. They have gone out of their way to comply with the gender recognition act and it looks very much as though, in this instance, their systems have been overtaken by more recent legislation.
Mr Munroe told us: “I have escalated this anomaly with the senior management team within Equifax with a view to them understanding the seriousness of the matter and to hopefully agreeing a plan to introduce the capability to create an “alias” process for changes in gender in the very near future”.