Credit Bureaus provide a credit profile of consumers based on their repayment record of outstanding debts. A credit bureau monitors, with constantly updated information provided by credit card and other lenders, not only whether consumers repay loans but whether they do so regularly and on time. Credit bureaus, unlike investigative agencies, do not assemble information on the lifestyle or character of individuals, or determine whether or not an individual is credit worthy; that is decided by lenders. Credit bureaus merely provide information to help lenders make decisions. Many of Canada's early credit bureaus were organized by merchants in the 1920s as a more efficient means of maintaining information on the credit history of individuals than the prevailing practice of contacting each other to conduct a credit check.
There are about 125 credit bureaus in Canada. A national association, the Associated Credit Bureaus of Canada (established 1939) is based in Toronto. There are also provincial associations. The activities of credit bureaus fall under provincial jurisdiction, and legislation in each province allows individuals to know the contents of their credit files and requires credit-granting bodies to advise individuals seeking a loan, a credit card or other financing that their credit history will be checked.