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On January 15 2002, the Mexican Congress passed a new Credit Information Law (Ley para Regular las Sociedades de Información Crediticia, or CBIL). The CBIL became effective on February 14 2002, and is the most recent attempt by the Mexican government to provide greater certainty and transparency to the gathering and supply of credit history. As in other countries, bureau credit companies serve as a means to collect and provide reliable information as to the credit history of individuals and corporate entities. Before the CBIL, the activity of credit information companies was regulated by three provisions of the Law on Financial Groups (Ley para Regular las Agrupaciones Financieras) and by certain general rules regulating credit information companies. Originally envisioned to provide input to banking institutions, the scope of credit information companies (CICs) has grown rapidly and now provide services to department stores and a wide variety of commercial companies offering credit.

Present status

There are two major CICs approved to do business in Mexico: (i) Trans Union de Mexico (a subsidiary of Trans Union Corporation and Fair Isaac Corporation), which has been acting as credit bureau for physical individuals; and (ii) Dun & Bradstreet de Mexico (a subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and Trans Union Corporation), which provides credit information of corporate entities. Together they hold a data base of 36.8 million credit facilities, 15 million debtor individuals, 600 debtor companies and 813 credit suppliers. Contrary to foreign practice, CICs do not have attention to the public and their data bases may only be directly accessed by lending institutions, not by loan applicants.

The shift

In a recent survey prepared by the OECD, it was noted that Mexico lacked proper standards that will afford the final customers minimum rights in connection to their credit history obtained through a CIC. To this extent, it was observed that countries of the EU, the US, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, have enacted rules that afforded customers direct access to their credit records through public and private credit data bases and provided means to challenge any information they considered to be incorrect or inaccurate. In Mexico, the old rules made it burdensome for any person to obtain his or her credit history since any inquiry could only be raised through the lending institution that had previously made the information request. In addition, the old rules neglected to provide final credit consumers a means to challenge the information gathered in the database of a CIC. The CBIL now requires lending institutions (whether banks, department stores or commercial companies) to provide their customers with the credit information obtained from any CIC as a result of a loan or credit application. Furthermore, CICs are now obliged to provide special reports directly to customers at no cost to them and on a yearly basis upon request. In addition, the CBIL contains provisions affording customers the right to challenge any information contained in such reports and to process any such claims in an expeditious manner.

Final remarks

An item of significance contained in the CBIL is that the equity of CICs may be freely subscribed, provided that no foreign authority may hold any equity interest in their capital stock. While the CBIL did not expressly supersede a provision of the Foreign Investment Law, which requires prior approval from the Mexican Foreign Investment Commission to allow direct foreign investment in excess of 49% in the capital stock of CICs, we believe that such provision has been overridden by the CBIL. We expect that the new CBIL will attract more players to the Mexican market of credit information supply and therefore, more competition and direct foreign investment in this field.

Moisés González-Santillán

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