Regulator accused of ‘choking off’ entrepreneurs after blocking Experian buyout of ClearScore

By Roger Baird on Wednesday 20 March 2019

Digital Banking

Blenheim Chalcot managing partner Dan Cobley said the regulator has ‘shot itself in the foot’.

The competition watchdog was accused of “choking off” the desire of entrepreneurs to start businesses in the UK, by a head of a venture capital firm.

Blenheim Chalcot managing partner Dan Cobley (pictured, centre), an owner of credit checking firm Clearscore, made his comments following last month’s collapse of its £275m sale to Experian, the UK’s largest credit checking business.

“I think this was a case of the regulator shooting itself in the foot,” said Cobley at the sixth annual AltFi London Summit held this week.

He added: “If the regulator chokes off an exit route for owners, then it also chokes off appetite to start a business in the first place.”  

FTSE 100 firm Experian abandoned its deal to buy start up ClearScore following an earlier warning by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), that the move is “likely to result in less intense competition” in the digital personal finance market.

Less intense competition

The London-listed firm said in February: “Experian does not believe that the CMA will approve the proposed acquisition of ClearScore on satisfactory terms.”

In November, the regulator said the merger of the two firms “is likely to result in less intense competition, potentially harming the continued development of digital products which help people understand their personal finances”.

Experian agreed last March to buy ClearScore, which provides free access to credit reports and scores, and introduces consumers to personal financial products.

London-based ClearScore began trading in 2014 and has seven million UK customers. Cobley is one of three co-founders of the business along with Justin Basini and Nigel Morris.

In November US credit score giant Credit Karma bought UK-based credit app Noddle for an undisclosed fee, paving the way for a launch into the British market. Noddle employs around 35 staff who work between offices in London and Leeds.

Cobley said: “It is questionable why a US company could buy Noddle, but Experian in the UK could not buy a UK start up.”

A spokesperson for the CMA said it “stood by competition concerns raised last year” had the merger between Experian and ClearScore gone ahead.

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