Jessica Rochon from Ottawa says she’s always been good with her money, so she was devastated to learn that she and his wife had been denied a mortgage pre-approval because of someone’s bad credit else – a woman who lives in a province of Quebec with almost the same name.

The two Rochons are not related and have never met, but their Equifax credit history appears to have been mixed up in one file, causing financial problems – and a lot of headaches – for the Ottawa Rochon.

She says her pristine credit rating plummeted and a collection was added to her file at some point, which is not clear from the report. She discovered it at the worst time: when she and his wife were looking to buy their first home together last August.

“I thought it couldn’t be real. I had never been late for a payment or I had definitely not let anything go to collections,” Rochon told Go Public. “I was so surprised that this could happen. I was so careful.”

By the time Rochon contacted Go Public, she had been fighting for five months to get Equifax to fix the case, having to explain the situation over and over again to different Equifax agents, but getting nowhere.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. [It was] incredibly frustrating. Equifax told me it would take five to 20 business days to correct the errors,” Rochon said.

Rochon and Holmes’ hopes of buying their first home together in August were dashed after errors in Rochon’s credit history went uncorrected by Equifax for months. (Sylvain LePage/CBC)

Rochon is among dozens of people contacting Go Public who say the country’s two main credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion – both private companies – are failing to address errors in credit reports, leading to serious problems. for some people.

“There are so many credit inaccuracies…and some provinces don’t even have a time frame for the credit bureaus to respond. So in our experience they often don’t,” said John Lawford, executive director of the Public Advocacy Center, a consumer rights group.

The financial consequences can be significant, says Lawford, who has seen people lose mortgages or loans when they need them most.

“It’s hopeless”

When Rochon first contacted Equifax in August to try to resolve the issue, she said she thought it wouldn’t be difficult since the company had a dedicated webpage to her specific type of problem “which just goes to show that it’s a lot more common than you might think,” she said.

But she says her efforts to challenge the information have been met with resistance; often waited on hold to be told Equifax’s system was down or a supervisor was unavailable when she asked to speak with one.

Even when she did, she says nothing came of it. “It was almost laughable at this point because it’s so ridiculous.”

The couple eventually found another mortgage broker who was able to convince the lender to only consider Rochon’s credit history with TransUnion and ignore that of Equifax.

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But by then it was too late. Prices for single-detached homes in Ottawa jumped from an average of $674,449 in August to $771,739 in January: a jump of 14 per cent, according to the Ottawa Real Estate Board.

The couple say they are now priced out of buying the type of home or townhouse they wanted – with properties selling for more than $100,000 above asking price.

“We’ve been outbid six times. It’s hopeless,” she said. They feel stuck in renting.

After Go Public asked Equifax Canada about Rochon’s situation, the company was able to fix his credit history within a week. We also spoke with the other Jessica Rochon, who has a different middle name.

She didn’t want to do an interview, but says some of the information in the file wasn’t hers either. She wonders if someone else’s credit history was also involved. Jessica Rochon is a common name in Quebec.

WATCH | Ottawa couple say they’re overpriced after credit report mix-up:

Credit report confusion leaves Ottawa couple out of the housing market | Go in public

After her Equifax credit file was mixed up with information from someone with a similar name, Ottawa resident Jessica Rochon says his wife was denied a mortgage pre-approval because of the someone else’s bad credit 2:06

Equifax blames the pandemic

Equifax Canada says it cannot discuss Rochon’s case, citing confidentiality rules, but says the pandemic has resulted in “a smaller, rotating workforce and slower connect times for agents who were …forced to work remotely while dealing with consumer issues.”

(Equifax)

Although Rochon was told that its errors would be resolved within five to 20 business days, Equifax says it “has made every effort” to notify consumers of the longer processing times through a notice on his website.

In 2016, Go Public told the story of a fraud victim who had been battling Equifax and Walmart for three years over errors on her credit report.

Of the two credit bureaus operating in Canada, Equifax receives far more complaints than TransUnion, according to figures provided by provincial and territorial ministries that oversee the companies.

For example, in Ontario, over the past three years, Equifax has received three times as many complaints as TransUnion, or 93 versus 31 respectively.

Why it’s so hard to fix mistakes

Experts say credit bureaus often don’t respond properly to consumers who have found errors in their credit reports because in many parts of the country there is no specific, mandatory deadline to check and resolve. The problems.

“It’s really in the hands of consumers to continue harassing Equifax and TransUnion, which is a daunting process,” said credit expert Richard Moxley, author of The credit game and owner of a credit assistance company of the same name.

Some provinces have deadlines. In Alberta, for example, credit reporting agencies have 45 days to correct information. Rochon’s home province of Ontario has no deadline.

Moxley says the biggest problem is that there’s no one place consumers can get the answers and seek help. Equifax and TransUnion have their own complaint systems. Consumers can also turn to provincial regulators; the rules may differ depending on where you live in the country.

The Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner also handles complaints, but only those relating to the disclosure of personal credit information.

“It’s frustrating for consumers. [Many] don’t know what the next steps are, what their recourse is, or even what the truth is,” Moxley said.

According to Equifax, credit errors can occur when lenders or creditors report incorrect information, in cases of identity theft or if two people have a combination of common names, similar social insurance numbers, dates of birth similar or from similar addresses. The company says it is working to reduce processing times to pre-pandemic service levels.

Credit expert Richard Moxley says a clear and easily accessible system is needed for consumers having trouble with credit bureaus. (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

Go Public asked all provinces and territories how many complaints – before and during the pandemic – had been received about Equifax.

Those who responded say complaints have increased during COVID-19 and the number one complaint is about errors in credit reports.

A report by the Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC) on credit reports found that one in five Canadians say they have had problems with errors in their credit report.

Of these, 10% believed they had been denied financial services because of these errors, according to the report. Credit report: how are consumers doing?

This report is over 15 years old, but PIAC’s Lawford believes little has changed and nothing appears to be more recent in Canada.

In the US, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received 700,000 complaints about incomplete or inaccurate credit reports involving Equifax, Experian (US only) and TransUnion between January 2020 and September 2021.

This accounted for more than half of all complaints received by the agency during this period, even though the CFPB also supervises banks, lenders and other financial companies. The United States has 30 days for credit reporting agencies to respond to disputes.

As for Rochon, she is grateful that the errors on her credit history are corrected, but she and his wife continue to be excluded from the housing market due to delays in the correction.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and time consuming. Every time you call it takes at least an hour and people just tell you the same thing. I’m sure they’re just reading a script and saying this will be done within a certain amount of time.”

Where to file a complaint:

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