New Lending Code 5: mental health, information recording

176. With a customer’s explicit consent and in line with requirements of the Data Protection Act, where it is possible and appropriate subscribers should record relevant information about the customer on their account so that staff can deal appropriately with the customer.  [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association -see link below]

As happens so often with different advances in civilised behaviour there is some conflict between different needs. I doubt whether, in this situation, there is a great problem between ensuring there is adequate information on file, and observation of data protection and privacy.

What is perhaps more interesting and important is both how that information is flagged, and how staff are trained to respond to it.

There is already a very intrusive approach to personal information gathering by creditor staff. Financial and health information, addresses, phones, relationships and family are all demanded as of right with little more confidence given the debtor than a rather loose code requirement and the Data Protection Act.

While there will be great annoyance and publicity at any breaches, we already know how much disc-stored information is either hacked or stolen and sold on. We have no real assurance about staff filtering or training, and even less about the policies and their implementation by creditors.

These considerations are multiplied where we find also that on transfer to a debt collection organisation the creditor is under no obligation to transfer important information, and a whole new – and potentially even less secure storage system – is made free to request and store all that information again.

So I urge on the BBA and the Lending Standards Board, as well as the OFT and the FSA to give great thought to the care which is needed in this, the procedures and requirements for the creditor and all agents, and the idea that it is right, as a routine, to expect debtors to repeat their information when it is already on file.

All that said, the addition of this is a support for the intent of the section, and is to be applauded.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

The new Lending Code is here
The MALG 2007 submission to the review of the code is here
And the Treasury Select committee view is here



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