Government officers have met with banks and credit reference agencies, after we gave them our feedback and findings, earlier this year, from Islanders who were unable to obtain or renew credit cards.
In January, we called 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.
Jersey Consumer Council Chairman, Carl Walker, said: “We understand that Government officers have been meeting with various banks and credit reference agencies since we first raised this issue earlier in the year.
“We had more than 600 responses to our survey last summer about credit card applications, and shared the anonymised information with officers to help them get to the bottom of why it was becoming increasingly difficult for people to apply for, or renew, credit cards.
“Recent discussions I had with the officers working on this very much indicated that a solution or work-around for the banks and the issues they’ve had with the electoral register could be on the horizon. This isn’t going to fix itself overnight, but the fact the Government has listened to the concerns of Islanders and is taking positive steps to resolve this is very much welcomed by the Consumer Council, as I am sure it is by Islanders too.”
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.
Mr Walker added: “Credit cards offer vital consumer protection when purchasing goods that turn out to be faulty or not as described. They can also help consumers to recover any funds lost if they’re the subject of fraudulent activity.
“Used carefully, they can also earn points or cash-back for Islanders on their everyday spending.”
Last Friday (21 April), the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel questioned the Assistant Chief Minister with responsibility for Financial Services, Deputy Elaine Millar, in a Quarterly Public Hearing.
Among other topics, the Panel asked Deputy Millar about actions being taken to aid the Island’s finance industry in maintaining Islanders’ access to credit cards.
The Assistant Chief Minister noted that the absence of a centralised electoral register has been identified by the Consumer Council as one of the barriers to credit card operation in Jersey during recent discussions with banks.
The Panel heard that conversations are ongoing to ensure that the existing credit card provision on the Island is safeguarded, and that various methods of facilitating this are being considered.
Deputy Moz Scott, Chair of the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, commented: “It is reassuring to hear that the issue of access to credit cards for Islanders is being treated as a priority and that the Assistant Chief Minister is working closely with the banks to address this issue. The Panel is keen to hear about progress being made to ensure that Islanders can maintain their access to this vital service.”
Earlier this month, an email sent to Barclays Bank customers in the Channel Islands customers said that Barclaycard accounts without a UK residential address were being closed as the company was ‘no longer offering accounts to customers living outside of the UK’. However, the bank has since apologised to customers and confirmed that the email was sent in error.