The credit bureau Experian Information Solutions Inc. said a souring of its lender-facing partnership with Fair Isaac Corp. led it to end its agreement to resell FICO scores to consumers.
Fair Isaac offered "unreasonable" terms when Experian tried to strike a new deal to sell FICO scores to lenders, according to Steven Wagner, Experian's president of consumer information services.
Instead, "we allowed the master agreement to renew on its existing terms" last month, he said in an interview Thursday.
"The fact that Fair Isaac was offering entirely unreasonable terms affected our view of what kind of a partnership and relationship existed," Mr. Wagner said. "Our relationship with them has certainly not been everything we'd like it to be."
Mr. Wagner would not be more specific about the terms of the lender-facing agreement.
He said Experian's decision was "not directly" influenced by a lawsuit that Fair Isaac has pending against Experian and another credit bureau, TransUnion LLC, but the lawsuit "doesn't make it any easier" to work with Fair Isaac.
Fair Isaac said Wednesday that Experian would stop reselling its version of the FICO score on Feb. 14. That score, which had been available only on Fair Isaac's consumer Web site, gave consumers access to a version of the scores that lenders use to make credit decisions. (The two other main credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax Inc., will continue reselling their versions of the FICO score through the Web site.)
Experian, of Costa Mesa, Calif., said Wednesday that the relationship was "not strategic to Experian's overall business," and on Thursday Mr. Wagner added, "The deeper partnership that at one point drove us to allow this relationship to exist just isn't there."
Fair Isaac said Thursday that it found Experian's reasons "puzzling."
Mike Campbell, the Minneapolis company's chief operating officer, said in an e-mail: "For the past 18 years Experian has received highly favorable terms from us in their lender-facing contracts, and they just renewed those very terms for another two years on January 15. We simply don't understand why they're denying consumers access to their FICO scores."
Experian sells its own proprietary scores directly to consumers, and it worked with the two other bureaus to create VantageScore, a competitor to FICO scores and the cause of Fair Isaac's lawsuit.
But Mr. Wagner said Experian has no immediate plans to provide its version of FICO scores to consumers through other means.
That consequence drew concerns from observers last week.
"This is certainly bad news for consumers," said John R. Ulzheimer, a veteran of Fair Isaac and Equifax and now the president of educational services at the lead generator Credit.com Inc.
He said Experian's decision "eliminates a third of the availability" to consumers of the information that lenders use to make credit decisions.
But Mr. Wagner rejected criticism that consumers would be harmed by Experian's decision.
"Lenders are looking at a whole range of scores," he said Thursday. For consumers, he said, "the crucial piece of information here is the data that underlies the score," which Experian will continue to offer.