Professional bodies have said proposals to protect people from unfair county court judgments (CCJs) do not go far enough – with the effort needed to dismiss a case and the time that judgments stay on an individual’s record among chief concerns.
Over the past four years, the number of CCJs has risen by 59%, with more than one million judgments issued in 2016. Last year the Ministry of Justice consulted on reforms to protect consumers.
In its response, the Law Society said that consumers should be alerted of claims by email as well as post, and that they should also be able to carry out a free online search for any judgments against them. The Society added: ‘We suggest action could be taken to provide clearer public information, educating consumers of how and when they may be able to set aside default judgments.’
The Bar Council said the proposals will result in the ‘unsatisfactory’ situation of a claim remaining on the register for many years, even it was served at an incorrect address. The body said it ‘does not consider that it is satisfactory that a CCJ should remain on a consumer’s credit record where they have been served at an address at which the consumer does not reside.’
The council also suggested creating a specific process for setting aside default judgment when service has been made to an incorrect address.
Meanwhile, the Civil Justice Council said it welcomed the proposals but criticised the length of time (six years) that a judgment stays on a person’s record. A six-year register entry ‘and subsequent poor credit’ rating is onerous in some circumstances, it said, suggesting a system where the length of registration is linked to the value of the debt.
The government is assessing responses to the consultation.