Experian’s beginnings go back nearly 200 years. In London in 1826
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Experian’s beginnings go back nearly 200 years. In London in 1826 a group of merchants, the Manchester Guardian Society, shared information on customers who had failed to settle their debts. Years later (1897), on this side of the Atlantic, a Dallas lawyer compiled lists of consumers who were good and bad credit risks by persuading some local merchants to pool their information. In the early 1960s, two aerospace engineers who believed our society would transition away from the use of cash launched the consumer credit information unit in a company called TRW. (TRW had its roots in engineering at the turn of the 20th Century, and became a leader in defense electronics. In the early 1960s, it launched its consumer credit division, and in the 1970s, a small business database.) By the mid 1980s, TRW held the credit histories of 90 million American consumers. These companies laid the foundation for Experian, which officially came into being in 1996.
Like the other credit bureaus, Experian had problems with credit data gathering practices. In an infamous 1991 bungle, an investigator employed by Experian’s predecessor, TRW, erroneously reported that 1,400 residents of a Vermont town had not paid their property taxes. The error triggered a credit disaster for many of those consumers. Investigation revealed similar cases of misreporting across New England. At the same time, reports of horrendous customer service surfaced and at least twelve states filed lawsuits against the company. Experian quickly implemented significant changes to overcome its flaws.
Experian’s core business model changed over time. In 1986, its predecessor, TRW, sold consumers their credit histories for a $30 annual fee. The Fair Credit Reporting Act eventually gave all consumers the right to view their credit files cost at no cost. In 1996, Experian broke away from TRW and joined forces with the largest credit reporting company in the United Kingdom, CCN Group Ltd.
Experian now maintains a vast database on both consumer and business credit, and does business in about 50 different countries.