This year we are launching our ‘Get Satisfaction’ campaign which aims to raise awareness around the importance of ensuring that judgment debts are marked as satisfied, encouraging individuals and companies to check the financial health regularly and make sure that any debt that is paid is also marked as satisfied by the courts.
As part of our ‘Get Satisfaction’ campaign we will be working with leading debt advice services so that consumers are able to access the most up to date processes, as quickly and as simply as possible. We will also be posting regularly on our LinkedIn and Twitter social media channels under the hashtag #GetSatisfaction.
The worrying trend of falling satisfaction levels in the UK and Ireland
Registry Trust hold public registers of monetary judgments made in England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Jersey and Isle of Man.
Across all six jurisdictions there has been a worrying trend of falling satisfaction levels over the last few years, 81% of judgments issued in 2019 are still outstanding.
An outstanding judgment can affect an individual or companies’ ability to obtain credit but that’s not the only area where outstanding judgments can be detrimental. Judgments are used both inside and outside of the credit industry as a marker of financial health - in fact, judgment data was used in 224million lending decisions last year.
They are also used by employers, insurance companies, banks, credit lenders, landlords and even mobile phone network providers to make financial decisions. Despite this, the levels of judgment debt being marked as satisfied continues to rapidly decrease.
What does this mean?
In 2019 alone we processed 1,307,598 judgment registrations. Around 1,072,230 of these will remain outstanding on the public register and if the satisfaction levels continue to fall at the current rate, it’s anticipated that by 2021 the decrease in number of satisfactions will have even more devastating affects for a growing number of consumers.
For England & Wales, 12% of judgments are marked as satisfied, and a further 7% have been cancelled, and yet if we look at the other jurisdictions the number drops significantly, falling as low as 2% for satisfactions in Northern Ireland, with a further 6% being cancelled.
Meanwhile, the Isle of Man has rejected this trend, with over 29% of their judgments being marked as satisfied.
We believe that many consumers are unaware of the process for having a debt marked as satisfied or are simply unaware that the judgment exists.
How does this happen?
Often a claimant (the individual or organisation that is owed money) has no forwarding address for the defendant, and the judgment is issued at their last known address.
They may only become aware of the debt once they try to obtain credit or other services, only to be declined. A recent survey by Experian found that 55% of British adults wouldn’t check their credit file before applying for credit.
To avoid this, we encourage consumers to always provide a forwarding address to lenders where possibly, and to make regular financial 'health checks' to keep an eye out for any changes to their credit file.
What is the current process?
Once a debt has been paid, there is currently no obligation for the claimant in the case to notify the courts (for England & Wales) or Registry Trust (for the other jurisdictions), leaving defendants, who believe that the debt is dealt with, in a situation where the judgment continues to affect them and their access to affordable credit, employment, or other aspects of their life.
The advice currently out there is often confusing and complex, for people who are already in a distressing situation.
Many believe that entering a payment plan will benefit them, however within the current system there is no place for entering partial settlement information for settled judgments and therefore if a lesser amount is accepted as full and final payment, that amount will continue to stay on a defendant's records, including their credit file, as an outstanding debt.
A sample study we conducted in 2018 suggested that as many as 5% of all our judgments have been partially settled and yet they continue to make up part of the 81% of outstanding debt.
While defendants are no longer being chased for the debt, they are still impacted by its effects.
Similarly, with debts on the rise we predict that the situation will only continue to worsen until is more is done to raise awareness of the need to satisfy judgment debts and change the culture around accessing your own credit information.
Our Customer Analysis
During an analysis of the calls received by our Customer Services team in November 2019 it was shown that 20% of the calls we received were from individuals or companies wanting to satisfy or remove a judgment, and a further 14% were from callers in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Jersey and Isle of Man asking us how they could send in their proof of payment in order to have their debts marked as satisfied or removed.
A further 17% were from callers looking for Claimant details in order to pay their debts.
That means 41% of our Customer Services calls in November 2019 were from people who wanted to have their judgments satisfied or removed – much higher than the 12% of defendants with satisfied judgments.
The issue that remains, however, is reaching people who are unaware of their judgment information or the impact of their judgment until it is often too late.
What we would like to happen?
In the same way that we have regular check-ups for our health, our car, and other parts of our life we should be having regular check-ups on our financial health. With the growing number of services offering free credit checks it’s easier than ever before to become more responsible for your credit information.
But individuals can’t do it alone, research has shown that the need for debt advice is ever growing and yet the number of services available aren’t currently keeping up with growing trends in debt levels.
It is vital that people are accessing these much needed services and that they are being given the right advice at the right time.
Having the right support, advice and understanding of the process is essential if we want to see more people having their judgments marked as satisfied across the UK and Ireland.
For more information on the process for satisfying a judgment in England & Wales see here.
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