Experian plc is a consumer credit reporting agency. Experian collects and aggregates information on over one billion people and businesses including 235 million individual US consumers and more than 25 million US businesses. Based in Dublin, Ireland, the company operates in 37 countries with headquarters in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil. The company employs approximately 17,000 people and reported revenue for 2016 of US $4.6 billion. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Experian is a partner in the UK government's Verify ID system and USPS Address Validation. It is one of the "Big Three" credit-reporting agencies, alongside TransUnion and Equifax.
|Public limited company|
|Traded as||LSE: EXPN|
FTSE 100 Component
|Headquarters||Costa Mesa, California, United States|
|Don Robert, Chairman|
|Revenue||US$4.335 billion (2017)|
|US$1.075 billion (2017)|
|US$0.865 billion (2017)|
Number of employees
In addition to its credit services, Experian also sells decision analytic and marketing assistance to businesses, including individual fingerprinting and targeting. Its consumer services include online access to credit history and products meant to protect from fraud and identity theft. Like all credit reporting agencies, the company is required by US law to provide consumers with one free credit report every year.
The company was established in the United States as TRW Information Systems and Services Inc., a subsidiary of TRW Inc., when it acquired Credit Data in 1968. In November 1996, TRW sold the unit, as Experian, to two Boston private equity firms: Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Just one month later, the two firms sold Experian to The Great Universal Stores Limited, a retail conglomerate with millions of customers paying for goods on credit based in Manchester, England (later renamed GUS).
The Great Universal Stores Limited, had employed John Peace, a computer programmer, to combine the mail order data from various of its subsidiaries and businesses to create a central database to which was later added electoral roll data as well as county court judgements. GUS's database was commercialised in 1980 under the name Commercial Credit Nottingham (CCN). So when The Great Universal Stores Limited acquired Experian in 1996, Experian was merged into CCN.
During the next ten years, Experian broadened its product range to new industry sectors, beyond financial services, and entered new markets such as Latin America, Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe. The business expanded through both organic development and acquisitions. In October 2006 Experian was demerged from the British company GUS and listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In August 2005, Experian accepted a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that Experian had violated a previous settlement with the FTC. The FTC's allegations concerned customers who signed up for the "free credit report" at Experian's Consumerinfo.com site. The FTC alleged that ads for the "free credit report" did not adequately disclose that Experian would automatically enroll customers in Experian's $79.95 credit-monitoring program.
In January 2008, Experian announced that it would cut more than 200 jobs at its Nottingham office as it moved development work to India to reduce costs.
Experian shut down its Canadian operations on 14 April 2009.
In March 2017, Experian agreed to pay a $3 million fine related to giving credit scores to consumers that were not their true credit score. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the United States federal agency who imposed the fine.
The acquisition in 2002 of ConsumerInfo.com enabled Experian to start supplying credit reports to consumers, enabling consumers to monitor their credit status.
In 2004 Experian acquired CheetahMail, a business founded in 1998 that provided e-mail marketing software and services. In the same year Experian also acquired QAS, a supplier of contact data management and identity verification solutions.
In 2005, Experian acquired PriceGrabber for $485 million. Also in 2005, Experian acquired FootFall, an information provider to the retail and retail property industries: Experian FootFall. Still in 2005, Experian acquired LowerMyBills.com for US$330 million.
In September 2006, Experian announced its purchase of Northern Credit Bureaus, located in Quebec, Canada.
In June 2007, Experian acquired an initial 65% stake in Serasa, the market leading credit bureau in Brazil and now the largest credit bureau in the world. The purchase price for the initial stake was $1.2bn. This was the first acquisition for Experian in Latin America.
In mid-2007, Experian acquired a number of software companies with products that filled gaps in their existing portfolio. The intention was to be able to offer Experian's customers an Experian-branded product for all phases of the customer lifecycle. These included:
- Emailing Solution, a French e-mail marketing company. The intention was to grow the existing CheetahMail business with the acquisition of this new client portfolio.
- Hitwise, an internet monitor that collects data directly from information service provider networks.
- Tallymandebt collection management software from Bristol-based Talgentra.
Experian purchased the company RentBureau in June 2010, which houses rental payment histories on over 7 million US residents; this data was included in Experian US consumer credit reports as of January 2011. In March 2012, RentalBureau launched in the UK. By including rental payment data in credit reports, several million people living in private rented accommodation will have the ability to access more and lower cost credit deals.
In August 2010, Experian became the first CICRA licensed credit bureau to go live in India. Since then the company has provided Experian credit reports to lenders and consumers in compliance with the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) guidelines.
Experian purchased a majority stake in Techlightenment on 17 January 2011, as part of Experian's strategy to grow its digital marketing capabilities. Techlightenment is a data driven technology and marketing company based in the UK, which helps clients to leverage advertising through key social media platforms. Techlightenment will form part of the UK Experian Marketing Services Division.
In May 2011, Experian acquired a 98% holding in Computec S.A., a credit services information provider based in Colombia, for the equivalent of US$380m.
In June 2011, Experian acquired Medical Present Value, Inc. (MPV), a provider of data, analytics and software in the US healthcare payments market. Its products are used by healthcare providers to manage payments between patients, commercial payers (such as insurance companies) and government programmes.
In July 2011, Experian acquired Virid Interatividade Digital Ltda ("Virid"), an email marketing company offering email delivery, email based behavioural segmentation, real-time campaign reporting, mobile delivery and social media integration in Brazil.
In December 2011, Experian acquired Garlik Ltd, a provider of web monitoring services in the UK. Garlik helps consumers to protect themselves from the risks of identity theft and financial fraud.
In May 2012, Experian announced it had signed an agreement to sell PriceGrabber, its price comparison shopping business and North America online lead generation activities, which operate under the brands Classes USA and LowerMyBills to Ybrant Digital Limited, a digital marketing services business based in Hyderabad, India. However, since then, Experian has announced that Ybrant Digital has failed to comply with its obligation to close the transaction and Experian considers Ybrant Digital to be in breach of contract.
In February 2013 Experian launched its consumer credit bureau in Australia. Experian will provide consumer credit reports to utility, financial and telecommunication companies. This launch follows the passing of the Privacy Amendment Bill in November 2012, which will mean a step change for lenders, who will now be able to take positive (in addition) to negative credit history into account when making lending decisions.
In October 2013 Experian bought 41st Parameter, a fraud-prevention vendor, increasing its presence in the fraud prevention market and extending its presence into web fraud transaction protection. Then in November 2013 Experian bought Passport Health Communications, a data and software provider, enabling it to offer clients in the US healthcare industry a one-stop-shop to manage risk and to satisfy their payments requirements.
Like the other major credit reporting bureaus, Experian is chiefly regulated in the United States by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, signed into law in 2003, amended the FCRA to require the credit reporting companies to provide consumers with one free copy of their credit report per 12-month period. Like its main competitors, TransUnion and Equifax, Experian markets credit reports directly to consumers. Experian heavily markets its for-profit credit reporting service, FreeCreditReport.com, and all three agencies have been criticised and even sued for selling credit reports that can be obtained at no cost.
Its market segmentation tool, Mosaic, is used by political parties to identify groups of voters. In the British version there are 15 main groups, broken down into 89 hyperspecific categories, from "corporate chieftains" to "golden empty-nesters" which can be taken down to the level of individual postcodes. It was first used by the Labour Party, but then taken up by the Conservatives in the 2015 General Election campaign.
In July 2012 Experian launched a free online teaching resource called "Values, Money and Me", designed to help primary school pupils explore both practical and emotional issues around managing money. The tool aims to give young children a head start in life by helping develop their financial knowledge and abilities, as well as their attitudes and values towards money. Values, Money and Me has been awarded a Quality Mark by Personal Finance Education Group, a UK financial education charity.
Sales to identity thieves
In 2013 a Vietnamese national, Hieu Minh Ngo, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with attempting to sell personally identifiable information on hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents. This information had been purchased from Experian subsidiary and data aggregator Court Ventures. Ngo then resold the information through the identity fraud enabling websites Superget.info and Findget.me. The information offered for anonymous sale on these websites included individual's name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, place of work, duration of work, state driver's licence number, mother's maiden name, bank account number(s), bank routing number(s), email account(s) and other account passwords.
2015 data breach
On 1 October 2015 Experian announced that they had discovered a breach existing between 1 September 2013 and 16 September 2015. As many as 15 million people who used the company’s services, among them customers of American cellular company T-Mobile who had applied for Experian credit checks, may have had their private information exposed.