Money: Bachelor & Brignall: Consumer champions Lisa Bachellor and Miles Brignall fight for your rights: Six years to face music for moment's oversight
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) I have always held an excellent credit rating and obtaining 0% interest credit has never been a problem . . . until recently. About three years ago I signed up for the Amazon credit card. I used it for about a year and then, with the balance clear I cut up the card, but unfortunately I didn't close the account.
I then moved house (from Manchester to Cornwall). At my new house I purchased an album from the Amazon MP3 store for pounds 7.99. At the payment screen, I didn't check the default credit card (which turned out to be the Amazon card) and continued on my way.
Seven months later I asked my mortgage company for further borrowing to do some home improvements. This loan was accepted, but they advised I should check out my credit score as there appeared to be a problem.
I signed up to Experian and found that I had missed six months' payments on the Amazon credit card. I immediately called the company and cleared the debt along with pounds 25 late charges and thought that was the end of it. The company stated they had been sending reminder letters to my previous address. I explained I had moved and it was a silly mistake.
Since then I have not been able to get credit. I was advised to add a reason to my credit report, explaining the problem, but this appears to have had no effect. I have written to Amazon Credit Card Services twice and they have refused to change the notes on my report and, as a final attempt, I have written to the Financial Ombudsmen, but as yet have not had a reply.
I have never been bankrupted, have no CCJs, have a mortgage for only 50% of my property and earn over pounds 60,000 a year. I recently inquired into a car leasing company as I am about to transfer from a company car scheme to a cash for car scheme, but this was refused. It's a dire situation, especially when the root of the problem is a silly mistake worth less than pounds 30. Do you have any advice on how I can get out of this
Your story should serve as a warning to all us, because, as you have found, having an impaired credit rating can really damage your financial life. Changing mortgage provider, taking out a credit card, and even getting a mobile phone contact all become very difficult with a default notice on your file. The problem you have is that, despite the extenuating circumstances, you didn't pay the bill for six months, triggering the default.
We asked MBNA, which provides the Amazon credit card, and it confirmed as much. It said it made multiple attempts to contact you, writing to your old address and emailing. It said it "has an obligation to report all factual information to the credit reference agencies and to report an account as defaulted. Customers in this situation are able to add a Notice of Correction to the credit file to provide an explanation".
The credit reference agency, Experian, confirmed the notice will remain for six years from the settlement date, although it suggested car leasing firms aren't usually lenders and "wouldn't therefore have access to credit history information".
A spokesman says that as time passes, your record should have less impact, because lenders tend to focus on the most recent credit history when assessing new credit applications.
Sadly, all we can advise is that you make sure that you don't miss any of the payments on the loan you were able to take out. Pay this off on time, and this will help restore your score.
Other readers, make sure that you advise every bank/card provider when you move house, and get post redirected for a good period afterwards. If you cut up a credit card, make sure you close the account formally too.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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