13th January 2023

Call for a centralised electoral register

The Jersey Consumer Council is calling for a centralised electoral register as part of a response needed to prevent further credit card companies from pulling out of Jersey and other Crown dependencies.

For more than two years, we've been meeting with credit card company representatives, credit reference agencies, the Jersey Bankers’ Association, finance leaders and the Jersey Financial Services Commission to try and understand, on behalf of consumers, why credit card companies are refusing new applications to Island residents, refusing to provide Islanders with a new card once their existing one expires, or, in some instances, closing existing accounts, despite excellent credit history.

And during the summer of 2022, we received more than 600 responses to a survey we conducted to try and get a better understanding of how consumers were being impacted by the move.

The Council has found that, while a number of factors seem to be influencing the credit card companies’ decisions – particularly the move by UK-based banks and lending corporations to ringfence or limit their business to the UK only, following the 2008 banking crash – the lack of a centralised electoral register in Jersey is a huge stumbling block for credit reference agencies to validate applications from Island residents. Complications in pursuing individuals in debt through Jersey’s court system have also been cited.

Jersey Consumer Council Chairman, Carl Walker said: “We have worked very hard to try and get clear answers as to why this is happening to not only Jersey residents, but also those in Guernsey and the Isle of Man, but it is a very complicated problem we are facing.

“It would seem, in Jersey‘s case, that the inability of credit reference agencies to easily prove or check who people are, particularly those who have no credit history from living in the UK, is a huge, stumbling block. Experian, one of the UK’s leading credit reference agencies, told us that many applications would be successful if they had better access to Islanders’ data.”

Mr Walker added: “We are mindful of Jersey’s unique electoral system, and the identity and authority each parish does, and should hold, in this Island. However, if some kind of resolution can be found, which does not remove any authority from the parishes, then it should be explored as a matter of urgency.

“We are very concerned that this trend from UK banks could spread towards mortgage applications, loans, credit and other finance-related services. We would be happy to work with whatever agency or government department can take this forward, on behalf of Islanders, to get a quick result, before the problem gets any worse.”