NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland suffer major system outage
The status monitoring service Downdetector began picking up on high numbers of reports of problems with Royal Bank of Scotland’s and Natwest’s online banking systems from about 10am.
At 11am the official NatWest customer service Twitter account, @NatWest_Help, wrote: “Our website is currently unavailable. We’re working hard getting it back up and running for you.”
An hour later, it reiterated: “Our website is still unavailable and we’re working hard to fix it.”
The account indicated that online banking through its mobile app was available.
The outage follows a report by BBC.co.uk last week that Barclays had topped the list of banks with the most outages in the past year, at 33 incidents in the 12 months to end of June. Natwest was named second for the year at 25 incidents, Lloyds Bank was third at 23 and RBS came in fourth with 22 outages.
Natwest/RBS had the dubious honour of jointly topping the league for the three months to end-June, with seven incidents each during the quarter. Second worst was HSBC with five incidents and in joint third place, Barclays and Santander each suffered four outages.
The Financial Conduct Authority has required banks to publish their number of major operational and security incidents since 2018.
Such downtime can result in missed payments that negatively impact a customer’s credit score.
Around 27 per cent of customers who hear of bank system outages subsequently check their credit report for potential mistakes. And of these, 64 per cent have found errors that could impact creditworthiness.
The findings result from research by Censuswide on behalf of the credit checking agency ClearScore, in March 2019.
“When banks suffer IT meltdowns consumers are hit by the immediate inconvenience and there can be lasting damage if payments are missed,” said Justin Basini, co-founder and chief executive of ClearScore.
“It can take several weeks for a missed payment to show up on a credit report. Many people discover they’ve been a victim only when they are turned down for a financial product such as a mortgage.
“I urge customers to check their credit report when they hear about a major outage at their bank. That way they can clear their name if any payments were missed that would affect their credit score,” Basini said.
Open banking is still in the starting blocks – research
Consumers are sceptical about how much impact the initiative will have on their lives, with just two in five thinking open banking will help people throughout the UK and could improve the way they manage their finances.
The term ‘open banking’ is a problem it seems, with just one third of consumers finding it appealing and one in five considering it safe and secure. The industry needs to lead its marketing efforts with a focus on the tangible benefits open banking technology can deliver, rather than detail about the software itself.
By enabling consumers to provide more nuanced information to a financial institution, those with less access to credit could benefit most from new innovations. As a result, the 760,000 people who are under served by the market will be more receptive to open banking once they understand what they would get in return.
For customers across the social spectrum, open banking could help people better track and manage their finances in one place, as well as being able to show lenders the full picture of their financial situation.
However, consumers fear losing control with 73% of more financially literate consumers worried about the danger of wider access to their data. Two thirds of well-financially served consumers were worried they would be judged on their spending habits, or end up with a lower credit rating, with slightly less of the financially under served at 62% also concerned.
However, Clearscore said its research showed a large opportunity exists for those businesses able to use the technology to offer simple and accessible services with a clear, transparent value exchange.
The firm will launch Onescore this year initially to 500,000 users hoping to buy a home and will integrate open banking data to educate them on how they should change and improve their financial position to achieve that.
Consumers currently under served by the market will also be offered the chance to connect their bank account data to their ClearScore accounts. With their explicit permission, this data will be shared with ClearScore’s lending partners to see if the additional bank account data provides the consumer with improved credit options.
ClearScore will also offer a personal finance dashboard to its users to visibly link bank account data to a report section, combining their credit report and bank account data.
Justin Basini, CEO of ClearScore, said: “Open banking has huge potential to give consumers better control over their finances, especially those who have limited access to financial products. But unless the industry does more to explain the tangible benefits to consumers and create real products that make a difference, consumers will be the ones to miss out.”
Clearscore lists Vanquis Bank, Shawbrook Bank and Oakbrook Finance among its partners.
ClearScore launches remortgage tool in partnership with Koodoo
The tool is aimed at automating the application process for remortgagors, generating personalised mortgage results by drawing existing information from a user’s credit report, and valuing a user’s property.
The current process often involves filling in several forms online and consumers often give up because of the hassle associated with remortgaging.
The new remortgage tool from ClearScore automatically inputs all the information needed to generate personalised mortgage results by drawing existing information from a user’s credit report and valuing a user’s property.
The tool is available to ClearScore’s seven million UK users through the iOS and Android app and website.
ClearScore also announced that in the next few months it will launch with Koodoo an automatic monitoring service that checks the mortgage market each day and notifies customers when they could save by switching.
The new technology will also be able to show users how likely they are to be accepted for particular deals and, for certain lenders, it will enable remortgaging in just a few clicks.
Record low rates
Justin Basini, ClearScore co-founder, said: “The current process for comparing mortgages online is really time-consuming and laborious – you have to fill in several pages of information before you can even get an estimated quote.
“It is painful and is putting people off switching to a new deal, costing them hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds.
“We want as many people as possible to be able to take advantage of the record low remortgage rates on offer in 2019, using the latest technology to make it as simple and clear as possible for users to compare deals and save money.”
Experian drops proposed ClearScore merger
In November, the CMA provisionally found the proposed £275m merger would result in less intense competition and harm the development of digital products.
In a statement issued to the stock market today, Experian said following subsequent interaction with the CMA it believed the competition regulator would not allow it to proceed.
“Experian does not believe that the CMA will approve the proposed acquisition of ClearScore on satisfactory terms, despite the dynamism and competitive nature of the market, and the customer benefits arising from the proposed transaction,” it said.
“Experian and ClearScore’s shareholders have therefore taken the decision to abandon the proposed transaction.”
New innovations coming
Experian added that its goal was to help more consumers with their finances by providing greater choice and convenience to them to access personal finance products at the best prices.
“Over the next year we plan to bring exciting new innovations to market which will help consumers address their needs across their financial lives, while also investing in new areas to further broaden our offering,” it said.
As a result of the announcement the CMA has cancelled its investigation into the deal.
Mortgage Solutions contacted ClearScore which was unavailable for comment.
Clear Score mortgage sourcing ad claims on ‘better deals’ given all clear by ASA
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the claim made by credit rating service Clear Score that “the better your credit score, the better deals you can get on mortgages”, was not likely to mislead.
The complainant, who worked in the financial sector, believed that an applicant’s credit score was used to determine whether or not they could be lent to, not the mortgage rate they would be offered.
However, Clear Score said it worked with a mortgage partner to provide offers for users and that credit score was an important factor, among others, that affected the range of deals available.
It argued that users with better credit scores would generally have a greater choice of mortgage lenders and offers, so they believed it was true to say that those users could get better deals.
It added that the advert did not say those with a better credit score would receive better rates and that the ad promoted its service as an aggregator of mortgage deals.
Better credit score, more lenders
Clearcast, which pre-approves most British television advertising, said it did not believe the ad implied the mortgage rate offered would be affected by an individual’s credit score.
It added that users with better credit scores would find more lenders prepared to lend to them, resulting in a wider variety of available deals.
The ASA said it understood that credit score was one of the factors used by lenders to determine whether or not to lend to an individual and that a higher score made it more likely that a lender’s mortgage offers would be made available to an individual.
It added that while customers did not receive mortgage offers with rates tailored specifically to them based on their credit score, there was a clear relationship between credit score and the availability of good mortgage deals.
For that reason, the ASA concluded the claim was unlikely to mislead.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is assessing a proposed merger of Clear Score and fellow credit score service Experian, with a final decision awaited.
In November the CMA has found that Experian’s takeover of ClearScore may result in less intense competition and harm the development of digital products which help people understand their personal finances.
CMA could block Experian’s takeover of ClearScore
The competition watchdog began an in-depth phase 2 investigation into the deal between the two credit checking firms in July, after concerns that the merger could have a negative impact on services provided to customers.
The CMA said that the merger would substantially reduce the pressure to continue to develop innovative offers and to make other improvements in services.
Currently, competition between the two firms is helping to drive quality and innovation in both free and paid-for credit checking services as they develop their products to vie for customers.
Roland Green, the CMA inquiry chair, said: “Our investigation has shown that this is a fast-paced and evolving market, and that both Experian and ClearScore are an important part of that.
“The provisional findings in our investigation show that Experian’s proposed takeover of ClearScore is likely to weaken competition in the sector and have a negative effect on the services offered to customers.
“The CMA is now asking for views on these provisional findings by 19 December 2018 and will assess all the evidence before making a final decision. The statutory deadline for the CMA’s final report is 11 March 2019.”
However, Experian expressed its disappointment, saying that the acquisition of ClearScore will have a positive impact on competition, to help more consumers with their finances.
It stated: “We also believe we will be able innovate more and better through the combination of the parties’ complementary assets and innovation cultures. We will continue to engage constructively with the CMA over the weeks ahead to seek to address its concerns ahead of publication of the CMA’s final report early in the new year.”
Experian and Clear Score merger will not negatively impact mortgage market – CMA
However, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is conducting a full review of the proposed merger between the two credit comparison services as it has concerns over other areas of overlap.
In publishing details of its review today, the CMA noted that the firms have a low share of the supply of credit comparisons for mortgages, that they face extensive constraints from larger competing credit comparison platforms (CCPs) and that they also face constraints from outside the market.
The initial decision therefore concluded “there was no realistic prospect that the merger would result in a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in the supply of CCPs for mortgages,” the CMA said.
“Subject to any further evidence submitted… we are not currently minded to investigate this theory of harm further. We do, however, welcome reasoned submissions any parties may wish to make in this regard,” it added.
In contrast, the regulator highlighted four particular areas where it felt there were significant competition concerns and questions to answer about the merger.
- the supply of CCPs for loans in the UK;
- the supply of CCPs for credit cards in the UK;
- the supply of credit checking tools (paid-for and free) in the UK; and
- the supply of pre-qualification services to CCPs in the UK.
The CMA has a range of remedy tools and could potentially block the merger if it found it was to result in substantial lessening of competition.
The consultation period on the proposed review is open until 11 September.
Experian’s purchase of ClearScore referred for full competition investigation
The pair of firms provide credit-score checking services which allow people to understand their finances, and choose loans and credit cards online.
Their ratings are also commonly used when lenders are underwriting borrowers’ risk.
Earlier this month ClearScore revealed it was planning an Open Banking-based service which would prompt customers to switch their mortgage by combining their credit report with current account data.
Late last year, Experian took a step into the mortgage broker market by purchasing a 25% stake in London & Country, prompting questions about how it would maximise these two services.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that Experian and ClearScore are the two largest credit checking firms and each other’s main competitors.
Its initial investigation identified concerns that the merged company would be less likely to innovate to help people better understand their finances, potentially leading to people paying more for credit cards and loans.
Earlier this month the regulator said it would refer the deal for an in-depth investigation unless Experian offered acceptable ways to address the CMA’s competition concerns.
The CMA said Experian had chosen not to offer proposals to address concerns raised and so the merger will now be referred for an in-depth investigation by an independent group of CMA panel members.
The deadline for the final decision is 14 January 2019.
Borrowers could pay more for loans if credit score merger completes
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Experian’s proposed merger with ClearScore could reduce competition for people wanting to check their credit score.
It said given they’re the first and second largest providers of free credit score checking, and that Experian is also the largest paid for credit reference agency, the proposed merger could mean the firms are “less likely to innovate to help people better understand their finances”.
As such, the acquisition of the rival firms could potentially lead to people paying more for credit cards and loans.
Experian and ClearScore have until 27 July to respond to the CMA’s concerns, otherwise it will be referred for an in-depth investigation.
The proposed merger was announced in March with the firms expecting the move to get the go ahead later this year.
At the time of the announcement, Charles Butterworth, managing director, Experian UK&I & EMEA, said: “It’s Experian’s goal to deliver the best choice of services to consumers to help them plan and better manage their financial lives.
“Bringing ClearScore into the Experian family is an important step on that journey, allowing us to share knowledge and insight between the two organisations and bring new scale and support to ClearScore’s existing business.
“We’re excited to combine the experience and strength of Experian’s global organisation with those of a successful and rapidly scaling business. And together, we’ll be able to deliver a broader range of products and services that will further improve consumer choice in the UK and beyond.”
Related: See YourMoney.com’s Seven credit score myths busted for more information.
ClearScore plans Open Banking offering to prompt mortgage switching
The credit checking firm’s OneScore will combine credit scores with information pulled from current accounts, along with data from assets, savings and protection in an effort to help people better understand their finances.
It is the first time people will be able to combine their credit report with data from their current account, according to Clearscore.
Users are given a financial healthscore with analysis of their spending patterns and behaviour.
OneScore then provides recommendations such as switching to a better mortgage, loan or credit card deal to help save a user money.
Clearscore, which is to be bought by Experian subject to regulatory approval, already partners with Habito, L&C mortgages and Shawbrook Bank.
The service is set to launch in Spring 2019.
It comes as Clearscore prepares to launch in India and Australia, after expanding into South Africa.
Justin Basini, chief executive and co-founder of ClearScore, said: “Credit scores are really useful but only reflect a small part of your financial life.
“Our ambition has always been to go so much further.
“OneScore brings together your financial past and present in one place to give you the opportunity to create a better financial future.
“This will be transformative for millions of people, helping them gain control of their money and access credit products more cost effectively.”
OneScore is presented to the user as a flower with petals represent different aspects of their financial life.
Basini added: “Months of testing, with hundreds of users, has produced an easier, calmer, more beautiful experience unlike anything anyone has ever used before.
“This matters – the more engaged users are, the more likely they are to learn more about their finances, the more in control they feel, the better the decisions they can make.”
Imran Gulamhuseinwala, trustee of the government’s Open Banking Implementation Entity, said: “I applaud all applications of Open Banking which put the user in control of their data, making it easier to make more of your money.
“I very much hope the excellent work on OneScore will inspire other fin techs to also innovate and make Open Banking an industry success.”