Access to electoral roll to face review

Access to the electoral roll for credit checking purposes is under threat again – just weeks before the new roll is issued.

Credit checks are a major underwriting tool, but a court ruling took the electoral roll out of commercial circulation at the end of last year.

The ban was overturned this summer when Parliament ruled credit reference agencies should be allowed to buy the full register.

Voters can opt out of an edited register that is on sale to any commercial organisation.

But now retired accountant Brian Robertson – who forced the original ban – is seeking a judicial challenge to the new legislation, on the grounds that commercial use of the data violates human rights.

CRAs and lenders face an anxious two months as Robertson battles to win a review before the rules take force in mid-October.

Gillian Key-Vise, head of compliance and data protection at Experian, says: “Mr Robertson succeeded last time precisely because no regulations were in place. Then, the judge found electoral data sales to commercial organisations for any purpose – such as direct mailings – was a breach of human rights.

“The new regulations only allow companies to use the register for defined purposes. Once they are in force the judge will find Robertson has no grounds for a judicial review.”

The annual electoral roll canvass is just starting, and with a new register due by the year CRAs want access as soon as possible.