Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Credit Reporting Bill 2012: Second Stage
I welcome the Minister for Finance to the House. As in the Dáil, Sinn Féin will support this legislation.
This Bill aims to create a more responsible lending environment and to prevent any further reckless lending such as that which occurred in the past. While the Minister referred to improvements made to the Bill in the Dáil, I am concerned that in some elements of it there is still room for improvement. The Bill states that the central credit register must be checked when any loan over €2,000 is requested. Earlier, it was stated that many moneylenders typically lend under that amount at higher interest rates and are, accordingly, excluded. This would reduce the effectiveness of the register. I understand the Minister has indicated his willingness to review this, which is welcome. Will he update the House with regard to when we can expect amendments in this respect?
The National Consumer Agency stated that the register would only be as useful as it is known. There already exists a credit register privately run by the Irish Credit Bureau. However, very few people are aware of its existence. I agree with Senator Michael D’Arcy that a register should be user-friendly. How does the Minister intend to publicise the existence of the central credit register?
The register should not be used as a stick to beat those who are having difficulties with mortgage repayments. If a family moves into a restructuring plan and meets its terms, any black marks on its credit record should be wiped away. The register lays down penalties for abuse of the system. Without some sort of will to use these, the register could become a way for certain lenders to chase and drum up business. We have been told the Bill is watertight in this regard. Without strict monitoring, however, there is a danger that some of those rules could be ignored, allowing some borrowers to be open to speculative lending.
While Sinn Féin supports the Bill, will the Minister give more detail as to when the register will come online, exclusions and other matters to be addressed on Committee Stage?