The Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) reporting system has been the subject of a national conversation over the past three months. President William Ruto’s administration in late September announced plans to reform the CRB system to unlock access to credit for a bigger group of Kenyans.
However, not all Kenyans understand how the CRB reporting system works and discussion on what is described as “blacklisting” has been marred by misinformation.
This article demystifies some of the common myths associated with CRBs and offers a guide on how to get your CRB report and understand its contents.
A common misconception is that a CRB is a government entity, equal to the EACC or the KRA that tracks bad debts.
Credit Reference Bureaus are private companies that collect credit information from lending institutions such as banks, mobile lenders such as Mpesa and Mshwari, SACCOs, the High Education Loans Board (HELB), and microfinance institutions, among others.
CRBs are regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). Currently, there are three licensed CRBs namely
The Central Bank has the statutory power to issue guidelines on institutions that can submit credit reports. An example of this framework in action can be seen in 2020 when the CBK barred CRBs from receiving credit reports from digital lenders who at the time were not under CBK supervision.
The CBK also barred CRBs from receiving negative credit information for amounts that are less than Ksh1,000.
There has been a misconception that has led to the fear of getting listed on CRB. A CRB listing merely means that your credit record is accessible by CRBs who can then share it with the financial institutions upon request - typically when you are being considered for a loan.
If you have drawn a cheque or taken credit with a legally registered lending institution, then CRBs have your details - which is another way of saying you are listed.
According to Metropol CRB, a total of 19 million Kenyans have been listed in the CRBs database (about 66 percent of the adult population).
The CRB listing is very different from a negative listing - which basically refers to a situation where a borrower has been reported to have defaulted.
Six million Kenyans have been negatively listed on CRBs - meaning they have a record of defaulting on a credit obligation.
A negative listing could also be caused by a history of issuing a bouncing cheque or giving false/fraudulent information in the credit application process.
As indicated above, there are three licensed CRBs, each with a unique process of accessing a credit report.
Metropol allows you three platforms where you can access your CRB report - website, mobile application, and their USSD platform.
For the website, you visit, metropol(dot)co(dot)ke from where you will be directed on access to the credit report.
You will be required to register for Ksh50 after which you can access other services such as a clearance certificate, a report, or listing status.
Metropol charges Ksh250 for a credit report and Ksh2200 for a clearance certificate.
To access Metropol on web application - download the Crystobol application on Google Play Store or App Store, install it, and after you have registered, you can see a summary of your credit report
The summary shows you your credit score, active loan accounts, and the status of the same (performing loans, amounts, and, history of default if any).
You can also request your enhanced report at Ksh250 which indicates all the information on your credit score and the reasons for your score.
On USSD code, you can access Metropol credit reports by dialling *433# after which you will be required to register (Ksh50) and access the services after that.
You can access your credit report on three platforms under TransUnion - the website, their SMs service, and the mobile application.
For the website option, you can access the report by visiting TransUnion(dot)com
You will be directed on how to access the report upon registration.
The mobile app - named TransUnion Nipashe - is available on Google Play Store and the App Store.
The SMS service is accessible via 21272.
All platforms will require you to register before you can access the service - the cost is Ksh50 and once you register on one of the three platforms - you access the other two with the same details.
The credit report is availed at a cost of Ksh250.
To access your credit report on creditinfo, visit ke(dot)creditinfo(dot)com.
You will then register your details and a credit report sent to you via email.
The first report is availed for free although you will still be required to pay a Ksh50 registration fee.
The clearance certificate is availed at a cost of Ksh2,200.
If you see an erroneous negative listing, there are various mitigation options. The CRBs have a dispute collection mechanism where you can raise a specific issue to a specific listing through email or submission of a written form.
You can also contact the listing institution i.e. bank, Sacco, etc., and raise a dispute. If your complaint is allowed, you will get batch numbers which you will submit to the CRBs for removal.
If you notice a negative listing, it is advisable that you promptly clear the defaulted amount to avoid further jeopardising your credit score. That is if indeed you actually owe the said amount.
Once you have cleared any defaulted amounts, you can then request an update of the CRB report by contacting the lending institution which will generate a batch number to be communicated to the relevant CRB(s).
CRBs are a critical part of the Kenyan economy. They collect information about creditors and share it with banks and other lending institutions.
CRBs do not keep a special record that has some borrowers blacklisted, rather they inform creditors about each borrower’s credit history including the number of loans borrowed, history of late payments or default, issuance of bouncing cheques, and history of fraud in the credit application history.
The record includes a calculated score - with CBK issuing regulatory guidance on the procedure of the ranking and reporting format. The lenders then use the information to do a risk assessment of their customers.
The assessment also informs financial institutions about the loan that best suits each customer based on their profile. It may also be used to determine the interest rate to charge, especially after the approval of the risk-based loan pricing model by the CBK.