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The protection racket

The AMI has found a way round the data protection blockade

In the mortgage world, there are usually three parties involved in any relationship – the customer, the intermediary and the lender. In that order.

Is it too much to expect that the strategic value of intermediaries be recognised? A case in point concerns access to ongoing information about a client.

Is it unreasonable to expect that a customer will want to carry on talking to the person they trusted to find them the most suitable mortgage deal in the market? Apparently so.

I have seen examples of lenders which refuse to disclose information even when the customer has asked the intermediary to find something out for them.

The reason for this lack of helpfulness? The Data Protection Act is usually cited as the main reason.

Anyone who knows me knows I like a challenge . We decided to see if there was an opportunity to unthread this problem. And you know, it looks like we may just have done it.

The AMI has published specific wording that members can use in terms of business or other suitable paperwork that, if signed by their customer, should allow members to access information from a lender on the mortgage after completion.

In research by the AMI, 87 per cent of intermediaries say they have had difficulties getting information after completion. Examples include trying to get:

  • Payment information (for example, the amount of the first payment or the date the first payment is due).

  • Redemption figures or mortgage balance.

  • Confirmation of the repayment method.

    l Information to respond to complaintsl Information on follow-on special schemes/interest rates after the end of a special rate period.

  • Additional loan requests/further advance information.

  • Mid-term queries and problems faced by customerNinety-seven per cent say they would support a form of wording that could be signed by the customer to give the lender authority to supply the intermediary with information about the mortgage after completion.

    To help bring confidence and clarity, we sought legal advice, which concluded that, providing the intermediary has appropriate authority from their customer, they are entitled to ask for information on their customer’s mortgage after completion. The AMI has consulted the Information Commissioner, the independent public body, which regulates and enforces the Data Protection Act.

    Guidance from the Information Commissioner highlighted these issues:

  • Intermediaries should only seek access to information about their customers when, and to the extent it is necessary.

  • Authorisation should be restricted so as to only allow intermediaries access to the information they reasonably require to fulfil their obligations in relation to that particular customer, unless the customer is happy to allow unrestricted access.

  • The customer must be given a free choice as to the level of access he or she grants to their broker.

  • The length of the agreement should be defined. The agreement should clearly state how long it will last. This should be agreed between the broker and the customer.

    l The ultimate decision to disclose rests with the lender if it has not received the customer’s authorisation. The AMI is suggesting to members they produce paperwork including the wording that their customers can then sign if they wish. This can be sent to the lender to confirm the customer is happy for the broker to be provided with information on their behalf, and to confirm what level of access they are happy to grant (restricted or unrestricted).

    It just goes to show, sometimes these doors aren’t as heavily bolted as we first think – it just requires an active trade body, focused on helping its members, to push a little harder. I am delighted with the response from lenders so far, all of whom have said that they would be more than happy to share the information they hold.

    AMI members can access the wording from the AMI website at: http://www.a-m-i.org.uk

    Chris Cummings is director general of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries
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