Bringing the big bad boys to book

Assuming I am credit worthy – and it will be incredibly embarrassing if I prove not – I should be sorting out my new Jane Fae credit card later this week. Yay!

Its been a trek…but along the way has exposed some amusing failings in various national organisations.

Go to BHS and apply for a BHS card and…your app is forwarded to Barclaycard (the issuer) who then run it through a scoring system provided by Equifax to assess your credit-worthiness. And, as the saga unfolded, it became quite clear that Equifax were breaking the law.

Their system had one way of dealing with name change where a woman changes name for purposes of marriage or divorce (linking records) and a totally different method (associating records) for cases where the change is for other purposes, including gender re-assignment.

(However, their system when someone gets a gender recognition certificate is model stuff).

Cue headless chicken mode. From the moment when I wrote about this issue publically, I seem to have had Barclaycard, Equifax and, to a lesser extent, BHS running like the aforementioned decapitated fowl.

Amusing – but also very serious, too. This is the sort of mysterious process that has so many trans folk absolutely spitting: because in their day to day life, something happens behind the scenes and, without the privilege (which I have both by virtue of being a bolshie journalist and 20 years experience of IT, systems and systems security), they just get fobbed off.

But not this time. Both Equifax and Barclaycard admit the process is discriminatory. Both are apologetic. Both are now paddling very fast beneath the surface to put matters right.

Having worked with large systems in the past, I feel for them, because I know that amending something like this may well not be easy. But it has to be done.

BHS have cried fowl. Sorry: “foul!”. They reckon that they are not responsible and can’t be held responsible for this – although I have had several legal opinions to the effect that they probably would be caught by the Equality Act in this case. But, with hospital looming, I am happy to leave it.

Unless they are a pain. This morning, I sent them my peace offering – essentially a “do you feel lucky, punk?” offer of a truce. I’d leave them alone – if they stopped being so holier than thou on the law. We’ll see.

So does this matter? Yes. Absolutely. This issue will eventually be fixed. Trans issues, in general, are now far higher up the agenda of two major financial organisations – and I will be talking to them again in September.

Following publication of my name change paper earlier this year, I am trying now to put together a parliamentary meet with senior bods from some of these organisations – and cock-ups like this do, I think, give me some leverage to get them into a room.

Its not over yet – but we are definitely making progress.



2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for fighting the good fight.

    I don’t really understand the difference between ‘linked’ and ‘associated’ records, and the issues may be different in the USA than in the UK, but it was quite frustrating updating my credit history with Equifax (and the other ones banks in the USA use – Experian and TransUnion). It didn’t help that I needed to get a car loan the day after my legal name change. It took 66 days for the credit bureaus to update my credit history. In the USA, they tend to use social security numbers as identity numbers. I didn’t change my social security number, but because I had changed my name, i had to re-establish credit again. I understand now that the credit bureaus had to wait for creditors to update my name, but in this interconnected age, I don’t know why it has to take 66 days. Well, i guess I do – it was a nightmare updating my name with some companies – changing my first name seemed to kick it to a higher level, and I often found myself waiting on the phone for over an hour. Some companies (utilities mostly) insisted I come to their office during working hours to do the name update in person. Some companies told me the name change was impossible, and we wound up closing the old account and starting a new one. It was clear to me that I don’t own my name, corporations do.

    I know UK and USA laws are different, but many of these companies are multinational. It seems like it would be useful if some trade group could write a best practices statement for them. Many of the people I talked with sounded sympathetic, but perplexed.

  2. 2

    Neil said,

    Well done Jane!

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