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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 August 2010

Private-profit company granted 'snoopers' charter'

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron, using the cover of tackling fraud, is bringing in credit referencing company Experian to challenge the claims of benefit claimants.

Chris Newby

Experian is a massive company with a turnover of nearly 2.5 billion and profits last year of 637 million, a rise of 8% on the previous year. Experian will get a 'bounty' for each person that it identifies as defrauding on benefit payments. Such a system is open to abuse as Experian - a profit making company - has a financial incentive to throw accusations at people in any marginally plausible cases. And we all know how inaccurate their credit checks can be.

Experian has a bit of a murky past. The federal trade commission in the USA has charged consumerinfo.com (a trading name) around $1 million over automatically enrolling customers on Experian's $79.95 credit-monitoring programme after advertising 'free' credit reports.

There are also justifiable concerns about the civil liberties issues of this private company looking into the spending habits of people claiming benefits. But this is not the first time that Experian has been used by government. The previous Labour government had signed a deal with it to scrutinise new housing benefit claimants.

Tax avoidance

Cameron complains that 1.5 billion a year is lost to fraud and overpayments, yet this amount is miniscule compared to the estimated 16 billion in unclaimed benefits or the estimated 120 billion that is lost to government income through tax avoidance, evasion or uncollected taxes. And why no mention of the fact that many 'working poor' have to claim benefits to survive? ie the government pays a subsidy to low paying employers.

If the government is serious about trying to increase government finances, why is it sacking 25,000 tax workers and closing 200 tax offices? Why are massive bonuses still being paid out to bankers at RBS, Lloyds and Northern Rock, having been bailed out with public funds?

And if the government is really concerned about the high levels of housing benefit what is it doing to tackle the extortionate levels of rent that private landlords are charging?

This Con-Dem coalition government, like the previous Labour government, is more intent on defending the interests of big business and the rich than it is on providing decent public services. Paying Experian to snoop on claimants is another example of private companies profiteering from public money.

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In The Socialist 18 August 2010:

Action now to defeat cuts!


International socialist news

Pakistan: Workers' solidarity urgently needed

Floods in Pakistan bring devastation - poor suffer most


Socialist Party youth and students

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Decent pay for interns

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Socialist Party editorial

Forecasts of fragile economic growth


Socialist Party news and analysis

Cameron sticks the boot into our council housing

Private-profit company granted 'snoopers' charter'

Private Finance Initiative: A licence to print money


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Northern Ireland: Belfast Stop the Cuts Alliance established

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Socialist Party Marxist analysis

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Socialist Party workplace news

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Debate how to fight back at Socialism 2010

Tube staff vote for action against cuts

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Socialist Party events

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International socialist news and analysis

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Socialist Party news and comment

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Related links:

Benefits:

triangleNo surprise, poverty is rising

triangleWhat will the spending review mean for me?

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleDon't let Tories starve our kids

triangleJob Support Scheme - too little, too late

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triangleBosses earn workers' annual wage in three days

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triangleUnder the microscope

triangleUnder the microscope

Claimants:

triangleFilm: 'Sick' - 'They've got people looking in the wrong direction'

trianglePCS: No to DWP management's plans - Yes to action

triangleJobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

Housing:

triangleChristmas redundancy shock at L&Q housing association

triangleEngels and the answer to the housing question

David Cameron:

triangleThe Cameron Tory legacy

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