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Full Year 2019

2019 saw a record number of County Court judgments issued against consumers, doubling levels seen eight years ago. This is a concerning reality about the state of household financial distress and the economic vulnerability individuals are facing.

In this blog, I want to break down the statistics to shed light on the realities consumers are facing.

1,272,615 judgments were issued in England and Wales with a total value of £2,228,828,426 in 2019. This is a 3% increase for number of judgments on the previous year, continuing the upward trend. However, the total value slightly dropped, suggesting a rise in the number of smaller value judgments.

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Consumer Judgments

For consumers, the number of judgments reached 1.15 million, a rise year on year of 3%. This follows an upward trend since 2012, the last year that the figure fell. Further, this year confirms the increase to pre-global financial crash levels.

Chairman of Registry Trust, Mick McAteer, commented on this rise saying, "Recent data from the Office for Budget Responsibility suggests that the sustained low level of interest rates has eased the debt burden on households in the UK. But there is no room for complacency. The latest data from Registry Trust shows that a growing number of vulnerable households are facing severe financial strain."

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Distribution of Judgments

To build a better picture of judgments in 2019, it is worth looking at the distribution of judgments by value. For consumers, the majority of judgments were between £100 and £500 (40%). Despite being on percent point down on 2018, this is still evidence for the rise in small value judgments being taken out against individuals. Judgments above £1500 only accounted for 22% of all judgments against consumers in 2019.

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Average value

Throughout the course of 2019 though, there was a downtrend in the number of judgments. Conversely, the average value of judgments climbed through the year. Starting the year at £1,405, it peaked in December at £1,783.

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Breaking this down, at the start of the year, there was a peak in lower value judgments (< £1500), with the greatest fluctuation from the yearly average being in the £500 to £1000 category, with a difference of 59%. As the year progresses, these group settle towards the standard mean for the groups.

Comparatively, for the categories for larger value judgments (> £1500), the first half of the year saw lower than average value judgments. However, towards the end of the year, for the months September to November, all categories saw higher than average judgment value. The biggest differences were seen in November with an average of 35% difference from the yearly mean.

Although December did not see any spike above the yearly average greatly, there was a large fall in the average value for judgments between £100 to £500 (-43%), solidifying the evidence in this graph which suggests that the growth of higher value average judgments towards the end of the year lends itself to explaining the rising average.

This graph animates this.

fy19 changing averages.png

This breakdown of judgments issued in England and Wales during 2019 paints a concerning picture for the UK's consumers. With increases in the number of judgments, despite falls in the total amount, it looks as if smaller value judgments are becoming more prominent. Mick McAteer, our Chairman, remarked in The Guardian's coverage of our full year statistics, that "low interest rates have cushioned the impact of debt levels on the typical household, but it conceals the fact that large numbers of more financially vulnerable consumers are facing real financial strain for a number of reasons."

We will be closely monitoring judgments through 2020 and will be sure to provide more insights into this year’s story as they emerge.

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