Chris Dick, Operations Director, Registry Trust
Monday, 27th June 2022
As Operations Director at Registry Trust, the not-profit organisation which maintains the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, one of my key priorities is finding ways to improve the quality, accuracy, timeliness, and completeness of the critical data that we hold.
Our monetary judgments data is used in millions of credit and lending decisions every year and we have a duty to ensure that it is used as public data for public good. While we must remain impartial on most aspects of what we do, we bring our knowledge and experience of maintaining the Register to campaigning for changes that will improve the way it operates and is used. These are mostly changes that, for legislative reasons, are outside of our control and we are therefore calling on policymakers and regulators to push them through, including inclusion of claimant data and taking the onus off defendants to gain formal ‘satisfaction’ when a judgment has been paid in full.
However, there is one thing that we are taking into our own hands and that is recognition of partial settlement of monetary judgments including consumer county court judgments (CCJs) on an official Register. Currently, we only receive information about fully settled and satisfied debts for the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. This means that there may be many entries on the Register showing to creditors and others as outstanding when in fact they have been partially settled by mutual agreement between the claimant and the defendant. In the eyes of both parties, the matter is closed, but when it comes to credit information, it appears very much unresolved. This unnecessarily impacts creditworthiness and isn’t in the interests of customer fairness.
In order to address this lack of transparency and completeness, we are developing a Register of Partial Settlements where this information can be stored and shared with the credit reference agencies, law firms, debt management companies, lenders, insurance companies, enforcement and collections agencies, government bodies, charities, regulators, think tanks, members of the public (via www.trustonline.org.uk), and others that use our data in decision-making. This will transform CCJs from a binary factor in credit decisions to an enriched source of data which includes verified payments and partial settlements.
Here are just some of the benefits it will bring to credit decision-making and, in turn, those in financial difficulty who we must support at such a turbulent economic time:
Greater transparency of the ‘debt journey’
Debt is emotive and personal. No two people’s financial circumstances are exactly the same. While data is vital in credit decision-making, it is only useful if it provides the most complete picture possible. Quality decisions require quality data. Being able to take into account instances where partial settlement has been made and resolution reached will provide a clearer picture of the whole debt journey, rather than a one-dimensional paid-vs-unpaid answer.
Recognising and rewarding willingness to repay
While willingness to repay is not the same as ability to repay, it still has a place in credit decision-making. Partial settlement of a CCJ debt means that the defendant has entered into dialogue with the creditor and come to a mutually beneficial agreement to pay as much of the outstanding balance as reasonably possible. This needs to be recognised and rewarded when it comes to access to affordable credit for those who need it.
Improving financial literacy and encouraging action
One of the issues we face time and time again is lack of awareness and understanding about the complex legal process of dealing with a CCJ. This often puts the most vulnerable in an even more vulnerable position and sometimes means that people ‘give up’ on trying to resolve it because it will sit on their credit file for six years regardless of what they do. This doesn’t need to be the case. If those with outstanding CCJ debt are supported and encouraged to come to a mutually beneficial partial settlement arrangement with the incentive that this will improve their credit information and overall financial health, it is hoped that a more proactive approach will be taken to managing arrears, reducing the overall level of bad debts over time.
Better, fairer outcomes for all
By taking into account information about verified payments and partial settlement of CCJ debt, credit decision-makers will be able to demonstrate to regulators and others that they are using a broader range of data to enable better, fairer customer outcomes.
Interested in publicly demonstrating your commitment to fair lending practices and finding out more? Visit https://registrytrust-psp.co.uk/
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