Conveyancing firms will know only too readily how central the issue of ID is to their process and, at the same time, how deeply frustrating the provision of ID can be for consumers, how much time this can take across the piece, and the costs associated with it.
At present, you have to feel for the consumer in all of this, because purchasing and selling a property may mean they have to present their ID to pretty much every single stakeholder in the process: from the estate agent selling the existing property, the conveyancer acting on their sale, the broker organising their mortgage, the lender, the conveyancer acting on a purchase, the Land Registry, and perhaps any number of others too.
The CA has long campaigned on this very issue in the hope that eventually we might have a centrally-verified and authenticated multi-faceted digital identity which can be shared between stakeholders.
We have long believed that such a system could be put in place via the Government, perhaps through the Land Registry, and to that end it’s been positive to see the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport issuing its recent consultation on the benefits of a Government-led digital identity.
The short and long-term benefits of such an approach cannot be under-estimated given how much of a target the conveyancing industry is for fraudsters and the sums of money which can be defrauded if we get this wrong.
Thankfully, the number of ‘successful’ frauds is small and dropping all the time, however when a conveyancing fraud does make the news, it can involve hundreds of thousands of pounds, and clearly the impact on those concerned can be absolutely devastating.
We therefore need a central system which can be relied upon, so that our firms can have full confidence that the person they’re dealing with is the registered owner of the property at Land Registry, and that the case can proceed without anyone losing their home, or indeed, their shirt.
The CA has already produced its response to this consultation and, given it has been a core workstream for the Association for a number of years, we are able to approach this from a position of strength outlining how such a system would need to work in practice, and the significant benefits to consumers and our members if we can get this right.
Having this one central ‘source of truth’ is absolutely vital for the future of our sector, and it would clearly go a very long way to making the home buying/selling process not just faster, but also safer for all those who might otherwise be targeted.
We will be discussing this issue at our series of meetings on Thursday and I would therefore urge all members to look at the response we have drafted, to understand what we are seeking and how it would help them, and to let us know of any further points you’d like us to raise.
We are already aware of more than one initiative to translate the theory of digital identity into reality; all are going to require pilot testing and industry discussion to get them fit for purpose; none are coming in overnight; we cannot predict which is the sure fire winner. But we will work to understand and shape these ideas so that they can really contribute to the efficiency of the conveyancing process
Progress is clearly there to be made and we believe this could turn out to be a significant win for the Association and our members.
Paul Smee is Non-Executive Chair of the Conveyancing Association (CA)