Speech – Credit Reporting Bill 2012

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Dáil Éireann, 28th March 2013

The establishment of a Central Credit Register system in Ireland, as outlined in the provisions of this Bill, is to be welcomed in that it will provide a more transparent facility for bank customers to learn what their current credit rating is and how it has been assessed.

 

The establishment of this Register is one of the many items committed to in the EU IMF Programme of Assistance, but it is a worthwhile commitment in that it will ensure that lenders have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding a borrower’s exposure.

 

The people of Ireland recognise better than most the dangers of foolish lending, cases where vast and often incomprehensible sums of money are lent to high-profile business men and women, with little or no checks or balances in the system. On reading this piece of legislation, one could not but help hear the echo of the stable door closing after the horse has bolted. Had this piece of legislation been enacted a decade ago, perhaps this Government would not have found itself in the economic mire on taking office.

 

For example, one element of this Bill is that banks will have to make mandatory credit checks with the Register for all credit applications above €2,000. Had this simple step been in place five years ago, would it have placed a damper on some of the overnight decisions to lend millions of euro to the top circle of most valuable customers in each of the banks which subsequently had to be bailed out by the Irish people?

 

Not alone will it provide banks with important information, it will ensure that their decisions can be scrutinised in light of the information that was available at the time. Of course, it will also provide valuable information for borrowers and I welcome the fact that bank customers will be entitled to one free copy of their own record every year.

 

One of the biggest economic mistakes of the past decade was the failure to take repeated warnings of over-indebtedness seriously. This Bill will help support policies to combat over-indebtedness. Given events of recent years, no Government is going to turn a blind eye to the dangers of being over borrowed, but who is to say that with time some element of this memory won’t fade.

 

Other elements of this Bill will help combat identity theft, which is becoming an increasing problem on an international scale.

 

The extension of the remit of the Data Protection Commissioner to deal with complaints from small and medium businesses, designated as those with a turnover of less than €3 million, in relation to their data on the register, is also welcome.

 

Businesses need access to their credit rating and also need to be able to take action where they feel that the current rating is unfair. The very last thing that a small business struggling to survive can contemplate is legal action to correct data held on the central register.

 

I believe that this Bill is both timely and worthwhile, in fact my only regret in relation to the provisions contained is that they were not enacted a decade ago as they could have prevented a small measure of the banking chaos that ensued.