The merger between Experian and ClearScore is likely to result in less intense competition in the credit checking space, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Experian announced it would acquire ClearScore in March this year, and in its initial enquiry into the deal, the watchdog identified concerns that the merged company would be “less likely to innovate to help people better understand their finances”.
In its latest findings, the CMA said that by “taking one of the firms out of the market, the CMA’s provisional finding is that the merger would substantially reduce the pressure to continue to develop innovative offers and to make other improvements in services”.
Experian offers both free and paid-for credit checking services, while ClearScore, which entered the market in 2015, quickly became prominent in the market for free credit checking tools for customers. Both companies also provide people using these services with comparisons of third party lenders such as credit card providers and banks.
In a statement, Experian said it is “disappointed by the provisional findings published today by the UK Competition and Markets Authority”.
It added: “We continue to strongly believe that the acquisition of ClearScore will have a positive impact on competition, allowing Experian to help more consumers with their finances by providing greater choice and convenience to them to access personal finance products at the best prices.
“We also believe we will be able innovate more and better through the combination of the parties’ complementary assets and innovation cultures. We will continue to engage constructively with the CMA over the weeks ahead to seek to address its concerns ahead of publication of the CMA’s final report early in the new year.”
Roland Green, the Inquiry Chair, said: “Our investigation has shown that this is a fast-paced and evolving market, and that both Experian and ClearScore are an important part of that.
“The provisional findings in our investigation show that Experian’s proposed takeover of ClearScore is likely to weaken competition in the sector and have a negative effect on the services offered to customers.”
The CMA is now asking for views on these provisional findings by December 19 and will assess all the evidence before making a final decision. The statutory deadline for the CMA’s final report is March 11, 2019.