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  • Mick McAteer, Chair, Registry Trust

Wednesday, 23rd March 2022

Credit Week Awareness Week 2022: Why creditors should back call for inclusion of claimant data on Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines

At Registry Trust, we have been campaigning for changes that will further enhance the usefulness of the data on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines which we maintain on behalf of the Ministry of Justice in England & Wales. One such change is the inclusion of claimant data on the Register (as is the case in other jurisdictions like Scotland). This week is both Debt Awareness Week and Credit Awareness Week, so we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight why this is something that creditors themselves should support.

Currently, anyone who wants to find out information about the claimant on an England & Wales monetary judgment must apply to the courts in writing, pay a fee, and wait for the information to be returned. Crucially, this can easily take them past the 30-day window in which they can settle their debt in full and have the record removed from the Register. The delay to obtaining this information can result in judgments showing on credit files for up to six years. The absence of the claimant name on the Register also creates issues for the courts as staff have to answer queries from consumers looking for information.

Including claimant data would not only benefit consumers and the courts; it would help policymakers, regulators, civil society groups, and other analysts who want to better understand the nature of debt problems in the UK. We believe it is also in creditors’ interests for claimant data to be published as part of their corporate social responsibility obligations and reporting.

The points highlighted below demonstrate how publication of claimant data could be for the ‘greater good’ of all involved, making financial markets work better, and improving consumer protection and financial inclusion.

Enhancing understanding of corporate and consumer behaviours

There is a lot of behavioural information crystallised in a county court judgment (CCJ). The volume of CCJs depends on:

  • The state of economy and household finances
  • Corporate attitudes and behaviours towards consumers in debt
  • Effectiveness of government policy and regulatory interventions
  • Effectiveness of debt advice charities
  • Consumer behaviours

Claimant data would provide us with a much better insight into which sectors are driving changes to volumes and values of CCJs. It would also help identify where financial stresses are emerging and which types of debt are causing those stresses (eg. is it mobile phone bills, utilities, consumer credit etc?). And it would provide deeper insights into consumer behaviour as we could see which bills are being left unpaid, perhaps to be able to afford the mortgage payments.

Credit scoring

CCJs provide genuine predictive value in a limited range of circumstances, such as relatively high value CCJs, or multiple CCJs in quick succession. Claimant data would considerably enhance the value of the CCJs in credit risk scorecards by identifying those of the greatest significance.

Regulation

Firms are required to comply with minimum standards on how to treat customers fairly when in financial difficulty. Inclusion of claimant data could help regulators such as the FCA, OFGEM, OFCOM, and OFWAT supervise markets and protect consumers more effectively. It would give them better insights into firms within their remit who are treating customers fairly by providing forbearance (and allow firms to further demonstrate best practice) and those who are behaving more aggressively and are too quick to take action. Claimant data could better inform the funding of debt advice services. Government and organisations such as the Money and Pensions Service would be able to see which types of debt are creating the greatest problems for consumers.

Stakeholders who support our proposals should get in touch on info@registry-trust.org.uk to discuss how we can work together on pursuing them further. I am speaking at Money Advice Liaison Group’s (MALG) Virtual Connect event on 24 March as part of Debt Awareness Week where I’ll be discussing financial literacy and some of the other changes to the Register we’re calling for (which you can find out more about here).

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