The credit agency Schufa is the most important of its kind in Germany. It has collected data on more than 60 million people and forms the so-called Schufa score, which is intended to indicate whether a person is creditworthy or not. In business, many companies, banks or online shops use it to make decisions. Every day, it makes decisions about the lives of millions of people, for example when looking for an apartment, taking out a loan or a new mobile phone contract. If the score is too bad, people are effectively excluded from economic life. That makes him particularly powerful.
So far, this score, and this is the second special feature, has been calculated using relatively little data. For example, Schufa knows who has how many current accounts or whether a loan has defaulted, but not how much people earn or whether they won the lottery last week, for example. Consumers have not yet been able to submit such information. To change that, the credit agency bought the fintech Bonify last year. The financial platform provides people with an overview of their finances by looking at customers’ bank accounts through an interface.
With the consent of consumers, Bonify can read and analyze people’s bank accounts, other start-ups and banks can and are already doing the same. What could be new as a result of the Schufa acquisition: In the future, customers should also be able to see their Schufa score in the app and improve it by providing Schufa with data from the Bonify account insight, which will make them look better. This should be done voluntarily and only if the data also improves the score, according to the Schufa.
The fear: The Schufa could become even more powerful in the future
However, these plans are now encountering initial resistance. The consumer-oriented non-governmental organization Finanzwende fears that the Schufa could get more data than it should from such an account insight and has started a petition in which it calls on the Schufa to bury the plans, as the SZ learned in advance. Gerhard Schick, board member at Finanzwende, calls the plans a Trojan horse and warns: “With insight into account data, Schufa would become even more powerful than it already is.” Schick fears that the new offer could put a certain amount of pressure on consumers. If someone needs a good score to get a loan and can only achieve it with an account insight, then that is not voluntary. “For many people, this is not real freedom of choice,” says the Finanzwende board member.
At Schufa, the criticism is partially rejected. Among other things, there are still no detailed plans that can be criticized. According to the current planning status, Bonify and Schufa will also remain two separate entities, data will only be transmitted with the consent of the consumer, and Schufa does not even want to store data from the account insight. It is considered unlikely that there will be pressure on consumers, since 60 percent of people have a very good score – and therefore would not be tempted to disclose further data. Pressure can only arise if it becomes a mass phenomenon to give Schufa data.
For the credit agency, the subject of account insight is tricky. As NDR, WDR and Southgerman newspaper At the end of 2020, revealing that the credit agency was trying to look at the accounts of the Germans, there was a petition against the plans, which almost 400,000 people signed at the time. The credit agency later scrapped the project and explained in an interview with SZ that the idea was good in principle but poorly communicated. Bonify apparently no longer wants to make the mistakes and is data-saving. The exact design will not be revealed until next year.