Apparently we had an anniversary and The Credit Hire Forum is now a year old! I would not normally bother because I always prefer to look forward, but I thought it might be helpful to report on what we achieved over the last 12 months. Perhaps the thing I am most pleased with is that, as at today, over 360 people receive our news feeds. All of them are engaged in the claimant side of the credit hire community whether they are barristers, are working for solicitors, or are employed by a CHO or an associated and supporting business. So, what did we set out to do, what have we done and what next?
The four broad objectives, when the Forum was launched, were to focus on:
Considering whether and how to move the dial in respect of the current definition of an impecunious claimant in light of the COVID crisis and the likely global recession that will follow;
Reviewing and responding to the risk of intervention in light of the gradual erosion of the protections afforded from the Copley judgment, specifically as regards intervention by text, WhatsApp, Facebook in light of GDPR;
Remaining alert to, and then assisting members to address the likely challenges arising from CPR PD16 in future first instance hearings, and
Reviewing the merits of BHR evidence in light of PD16 and Bunting v Zurich Insurance and evaluate the basis and means for challenge including, but not limited to reliance on the revised statement of truth.
It is only the second of those two initiatives that remains work in progress and members will have received my previous request for assistance in cases where they have evidence of an insurer intervention supported by transcripts.
PD16 has, so far at least, proved less challenging than we anticipated, perhaps because of the relatively slow pace at which things are moving through the system.
The actions taken in respect of items 1 and 4 are addressed with below.
Like most of you, we have all experienced the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. It has presented me from getting out to meet our members face to face. And whilst Zoom and MS Teams has helped a little, it can’t replace the human interaction and so a lot of what I am reporting over the past 12 months relates to activity dedicated to outward facing communications. That said, we have done quite a bit in the first year:
We started by carrying out a survey to identify the potential demand for the Credit Hire Forum, to understand how we might assist members without competing with the CHO and whether we could add any value at what i was determined would be minimal cost to our members.
On the back of the survey, we published our results and launched the Forum in May 2020.
The website came first (www.credithire.org.uk) and we used that to publish a total of more than 600 topical news items, all relating to the sector, over the course of the year.
We also created a Law Library, an online resource with transcripts from 300 or so credit hire specific judgement or precedents. We added to that as members shared details of important cases.
Thanks to the support of Guy Kirkham of MTA Solicitors, we also assembled a Liability Library. Analysing accidents across 18 different types of fault, we provided commentary and a transcript from almost 260 cases.
With feedback from members, we circulated and shared in the Feedback Loop more than 100 items of intelligence received.
We also created a resource where intelligence relating to your opponents could be stored and accessed across six categories with 69 entries.
We created a Forum to allow members to debate 44 topical issues in a secure environment.
We provided ad hoc support to many members including individual challenges raised by defendant insurers (or their solicitors), managing the media, identifying counsel for a particular challenge or even dealing with commercial issues like identifying potential funding streams.
In order to provide the requisite focus, we formed a steering group to ensure that there was balance and focus in our efforts to support the industry. My thanks go to Jonathan McKeown (JMK Solicitors), Rachael Wong (Bond Turner), Guy Kirkham (MTA Solicitors), David Reid (Auto Claims Assist), Christophe Leemanyan (Kindertons), Adam Thorpe (Winn Solicitors) and Stuart Nicol of counsel.
We established a dialogue with the Credit Hire Organisation to ensure that each organisation was unlikely to embarrass the other by pursuing incompatible initiatives.
To assist members we produced and published a list of resources comprising those companies engaged in the credit hire market to promote a degree of community.
We reported on the decision in Bunting v Zurich and provided a commentary from Dean Roberts to assist members confronted by the same challenge.
We provided a detailed critique for the evidence routinely adduced by Surveyorship.
I wrote a detailed review of the true state of automotive dealerships during Lockdown 1 in response to an assertion by insurers that the market was open and functioning normally through click and collect.
We worked with counsel and leading counsel to support an initiative to move the needle on impecuniosity in light of the probable impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. That resulted in a webinar attended by over 80 members and resulted in the collation of advice from Guy Vickers, Stuart Nicol and Ben Williams QC which was shared with subscribers.
To aid market intelligence, we provided written transcripts of workshops held by DAC Beachcroft in which they set out their strategy for challenging credit hire cases.
Depressingly, we provided a written transcript of a group conversation between people at Keoghs and Kirsty McKno in which some of the concessions she made were not helpful to the industry.
We arranged a second webinar to address the emerging concerns surrounding the use of ANPR data by defendant solicitors seeking to challenge the veracity of credit hire claims.
Subsequent to the above, and supported by Bond Turner Solicitors, we conducted an extensive investigation and then instructed specialist counsel to advise on a complaint to the ICO about breaches of GDPR regulations.
The Forum made that complaint in a very long letter and subsequently engaged with the ICO, the outcome of which will be shared in another webinar scheduled for 14th May.
We canvassed views about whether it was appropriate to make submissions to the MoJ about the continued use of remote hearings and determined after receiving feedback that there were too many different and disparate views to make the proposal one that could be supported by all.
We became involved in the challenges of using Open Banking to obtain digital bank statements to satisfy the directions in litigated cases where impecuniosity is pleaded. With initial involvement from those solicitors that were using the Direct ID solution and James Bilham, a conference call was arranged. The challenges were identified and after much midnight oil was burned, were subsequently addressed with the supplier. I am grateful for the support of Bond Turner Solicitors, Garvins Law Solicitors and AX. In a series of virtual meetings and negotiations with Direct ID, a solution was generated and finally presented to the group at the end of April 2021. Specific thanks got to Bond Turner for their commitment to the project.
We have arranged a further webinar for 18th May to outline to those that are interested, the functionality and deployment challenges of the Open Banking data.
Finally, and in commercial terms, recognising the potential to bring solutions to the table that might benefit the whole sector, we identified a solution marketed by Cazana which may have advantages for those that are challenged by unrealistic defendant valuations associated with vehicles deemed beyond economic repair.
Looking forward, my aim remains to extend our membership of the Forum and to continue to react to the ‘ad hoc’ requests for help that we receive, to seek more feedback and share it more widely so that the industry can appreciate and reflect on the best way to address the challenges it faces on a daily basis and to be proactive, as we were in our first year, to try to assist in the wider industry based challenges.
When we launched the Forum none of us knew what impact the Coronavirus pandemic was going to have. Hopefully, the light that we see at the end of the tunnel is good news and heralds a point when we will be able to engage face to face in the coming months. I promised all of you that subscribed to the Forum that I was looking forward to meeting with you in person, understand more of your challenges and helping to see if i could drive a solution. It has been a long wait but, I hope, we can get back to business as it was meant to be in the near future and that we might provide better support to help you deal with the challenges you face.
In the meantime, and as ever, I really do value, as I think all members do, you providing details of any case or defendant specific challenge or threat or sharing with me any issue that you feel I can provide assistance with. I really also do welcome your feedback in respect of anything else I could do to assist. And finally, can I thank you for your support in our first year (even if you only read what I send out and give a little cheer when it sounds like good news)? I hope I can continue to be at least a small part of making your daily battles a little easier to face through the rest of 2021.