Creating a fairer debt collection industry
Date: Thursday, February 4th 2021
Time: 9:30 AM — 1:00 PM
Registration: Online Registration (£99) - Quote "Just" for a 33% discount.
Enforcement agents – more commonly known as bailiffs – play an important part in both our economy and our justice system. Whether it is collecting debts for councils (e.g. unpaid Council tax or parking fines) or seeking evidence in the lead up to a court case, around four million debts a year are collected by enforcement agents.
However, in the last year, Citizens Advice have helped over 41,000 people with bailiff issues, resulting in many enforcement agents being branded ‘rogue bailiffs’. With the economic fallout only just beginning as the pandemic restrictions continue, the issue of unpaid debt and the need to deploy enforcement agents is likely to only increase. It is therefore of growing importance that councils and other users of bailiffs help to prevent the deployment of rogue agents, whilst debtors are better informed about their rights.
In 2012, the government made a commitment to deliver protection against “rogue bailiffs” who use “aggressive methods” whilst ensuring debts could still be collected effectively. The biggest regulatory change to debt collection agents has come from a series of reforms. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations of 2014 set out the procedure enforcement agents must follow when taking control of goods.
While other reforms focused on the requirements an individual must meet before they are granted a certificate to work as an enforcement agent. The overall policy objective was to disincentivise aggressive enforcement, specifically, excessive charging, the premature or unnecessary undertaking of enforcement activity, and threatening behaviour. It also sought to provide adequate protection for debtors, and particularly the vulnerable.
However, a 2018 review by the Ministry of Justice into the 2014 reforms, concluded that while “the reforms had led to many positive changes, including improved transparency and consistency, both in terms of the enforcement process and the fees charged by enforcement agents… some enforcement agents were still perceived to be acting aggressively and not complying with the new rules.”
Perhaps a greater indictment of the reforms comes from Citizens Advice who have seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems since 2014. Furthermore out of the 2.2 million people in England and Wales who have been contacted by a bailiff in the last two years, it is believed that one in three have seen bailiffs breaking the rules, such as by forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work.
As bans on evictions are lifted, and creditors and councils start to resume attempts at reclaiming money owed, the need for good debt collection practice is arguably more needed than ever. Unemployment figures are likely to be greater in 2021 than they were following the 2007 financial crash, and as perhaps more people fall into credit arrears and mental health issues balloon, it is important that bailiffs maintain an expected standard while also allowing them to recapture debts, that especially local authorities desperately need.
This timely symposium therefore provides an invaluable opportunity for local authorities, financial services and enforcement industries, the legal profession, judiciary and the third sector to examine the government’s reforms to better regulate enforcement agents’ activities and explore the next steps in putting an end to the minority of poor practice in debt collection. It will also explore ways how to provide debt advice to assist debtors to better manage their debt.
Who Should Attend
Local Authorities, Enforcement Agencies, Government Departments, The Legal Profession, The Judiciary, The Advice Sector, Voluntary Organisations, Charities, Landlords, Local Housing Authorities, Teams in Housing Associations, Housing Services Management Teams, Housing Management Officers, Housing Finance Professionals, Income Officers, Income Management Officers, Social Housing and Support Officers, Housing Trusts, Family Support Officers, Community Development Teams, Community Involvement Officers, Community Engagement Officers, Customer Involvement Managers, Health and Safety Officers, Tenancy Management Officers, Principal Officers – Health and Housing, The Police