Wednesday 28 November 2018 8:00 am

Watchdog warns Experian-Clearscore merger would stifle competition

Experian’s merger with credit score rival Clearscore could harm competition in the credit checking sector, a watchdog warned today.

The proposed tie-up would “stifle product development”, hurting people trying to make sense of their finances, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

“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,” said inquiry chair Roland Green.

“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 watchdog called in Experian’s takeover of the startup back in August, fearing it could mean people pay more for credit cards and loans.

Experian offers free and paid-for credit scores to consumers, earning commission when they then take out a credit card or loan, a similar model to that of startup Clearscore, which entered the market in 2015 to quickly become consumers’ most popular free credit check service.

Experian said in a statement that it was disappointed by the CMA’s findings.

“We continue to strongly believe that the acquisition of Clearscore will have a positive impact on competition, allowing Experian to help more consumers with their finances by providing greater choice and convenience to them to access personal finance products at the best prices,” the company said.

“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.”

The CMA is seeking responses to its preliminary findings by 19 December before it makes a final decision.