The credit reporting agencies just agreed to a deal that makes it easier for consumers to fix errors on their reports. This is great news for consumers, but doesn’t do jack to help small business owners protect their credit.
Unlike personal credit, which is protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), business credit has no such law. There’s no defined process that a business owner can use to fix errors on their business credit reports. It’s like the Wild West.
This is a big deal because lenders and suppliers use these reports to judge whether a business will pay its bills on time. Having poor credit forces business owners to pay more for financing, or get denied entirely.
Unfortunately, business credit reports also tend to have more errors than the personal side. A Wall Street Journal survey showed that 25% of small business owners who looked found credit-lowering errors on their reports. A lot of times these mistakes are just incorrect data, like outdated revenue figures or an incorrect industry classification code.
Related Article: Why Smart Entrepreneurs Separate Personal From Business Credit
Another common problem is mismatched business profiles. That’s because the bureaus just match the business name and address to populate a report; but the data doesn’t have to be exact. Think about all the franchises that share a common DBA!
These errors may be easy for a business owner to spot, but fixing them isn’t as simple. A survey by the National Small Business Association found that 23% of business owners had difficulty disputing or correcting a mistake with a debt collector or credit reporting firm.
To help keep your business credit on point, learn these four other ways that business credit differs from personal credit:
1. Late payments
In personal credit, you get a 30-day leeway before a payment is marked late. In business credit, a payment that is even one day late can lower your scores. To get a perfect PAYDEX score (the main credit score used by vendors to judge a business’s credibility), you have to pay your business bills early.
Money-saving secret: Some vendors will offer discounts if you pay your invoice early. For example, vendors will offer “2/10 net 30” terms, which means you get a 2% discount if you pay within 10 days. Otherwise, the full amount is due within 30 days.
2. Free access
The FCRA enables you to access your personal credit for free once every year. Businesses aren’t covered by the FCRA, so no law gives you the right to get a free business credit report.
Related Article: Can a Business Credit Card Lower Your Stress?
3. Permissible purpose
With personal credit, lenders and other companies need a legitimate reason to look at your credit files; like when you apply for financing or insurance. But, with business credit, anyone can pull your business files for any reason, and they don’t need your permission.
4. No notice required
If you’re personal credit adversely affects you (e.g., you get turned down for a loan), the lender is required to notify you. With business credit, notice isn’t required. A vendor, supplier, potential customer can decide not to work with you or charge you more based on your business credit report, and they don’t have to notify you.
It’s mind boggling that business credit doesn’t have the same type of protections as consumer credit. The onus is on the business owner to stay on top of it and make sure their reports are healthy and error-free. Ignoring it isn’t a winning strategy.