Assured Digital Identity in the Home Buying & Selling Process

Today's Conveyancer

14 September 2020

Today’s Conveyancer last week reported on government plans for an electronic verification system which would remove the need to provide original official documentation to prove identity.

Today’s Conveyancer last week reported on government plans for an electronic verification system which would remove the need to provide original official documentation to prove identity.

Responding to Digital Identity: Call for Evidence Response, Chair of the newly formed Digital Identity Group (DIG) working group at the Home Buying and Selling Group Stuart Young discusses DIG’s role in working with the sector to develop a digital identity trust frame work for the home buying and selling process

What is an assured digital identity?
An assured digital identity (DI) is the identity of a person that can be trusted and relied upon in the conveyancing process. There is a clear difference between an authenticated identity and a verified identity and for a house sale to go through we need to work to a verified identity.

The problem we have is that there are many companies providing authentication services to conveyancers and others providing verification services and this in itself creates disparity in the system, lack of trust and ultimately reliability. The core of the transaction is built around proof of identity and ownership but the different parties involved in the home buying and selling process will not, or indeed, cannot trust the identity verification carried out by another.

This causes friction for the client and introduces greater delays and costs into the sales process, when they just need one identity verification.

DCMS Digital Identity Consultation
The DCMS recently published a response to their Digital Identity consultation recognising the growing need for citizens to have an assured identity enabling them to transact online. What is very positive is that they are working to develop a legal framework to remove regulatory barriers which often hinder the use of a secure digital identity and to establish safeguards for citizens.

As the DCMS highlighted.

“people who are buying or selling their homes are required to prove their identity multiple times throughout the process. This is time consuming, expensive and repetitive for people and businesses. Effective use of digital identities would help simplify a lengthy process. The result would be reduced friction, cost and abandoned transaction.”

HMLR Facing up to the digital identity challenge
In their recent blog HMLR highlighted that checking ID personally can be inconvenient to all parties involved and relies on the skill and attention to detail of the person doing the checking, which can be variable. This in itself perpetuates the inability for a relying party to rely on another organisation’s identity verification. Further highlighting;

“The current crisis (Covid19) has highlighted the immediate need for an easy-to-use, modestly-priced, remote and digitally secure way for conveyancers to securely identify the buyers and sellers of a property.”

HMLR have highlighted that we need to bring our identity verification checking into the 21st century and explore options such as cryptographic methods embracing biometric identity solutions, which are far more secure than standard checking of documents. Identity challenges can be addressed through the use of robust digital tools, but they are not readily available and can be costly to adopt.

Digital Identity Group
Through the consumer focused Home Buying and Selling Group there is a new working group called the Digital Identity Group (DIG), whose purpose is to work with the sector to develop a digital identity trust frame work for the home buying and selling process. There are already well-established solutions and established, but often conflicting, standards to be built on.

The DIG is working to resolve these conflicts bringing much higher levels of trust and reliance into the process.

There is a quick win for the housing buying and selling sector to come together, working through the DIG and with DCMS and HMLR, to develop a digital identity trust framework for our sector. Indeed the DIG has its first meeting on the 1st October.

If we do not come together and improve the process for consumers then we are left with the system we constantly complain about with it’s current flaws.

Benefits of a digital identity trust framework
There are a number of benefits for us and especially consumers who would enjoy a simplified experience only requiring to prove their identity once and be able to share this.

Conveyancers would likewise see improved cash flow and reduced abandonment, but more importantly for them an improved trust in the identity and reduced risk of fraud, which would have a positive impact on their liabilities.

Agents likewise would see improved cash flow by a shorter time to completion and reduced abandonment.

Lenders and IFA’s would be able to trust the identity and therefore make better and more informed faster decision, with a reduced risk of fraud.

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