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09 November 2020
On Friday the High Court sat for a second time in a case led by the enforcement market integrator, Just to establish if debtors should be given the opportunity to request a virtual enforcement visit during these difficult times of COVID-19.
Just believe that the enforcement process needs to reflect the new realities facing society, as COVID-19 is leading to more financial vulnerability and the physical and mental health risks of a physical visit are greatly heightened.
The Government last week requested for the second time that enforcement agents don't enter people's homes from November until the end of the lockdown period later this year. The current restrictions however, allow enforcement agents to visit debtors but not enter their homes. This prevents agents completing the task of taking control of goods in most cases, yet debtors are still charged the associated fees. Just say this is not necessary during these difficult times.
Virtual enforcement allows the enforcement process to take place over a video call, allowing enforcement agents to secure goods against payment plans without having to attend a debtor’s property and charge additional fees.
Just designed this solution at the beginning of the pandemic and in July 2020 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed that there was nothing in legislation to prohibit virtual enforcement visits from taking place. Just informed the MoJ that they would also ask the High Court to review the process to ensure it was not subject to future challenges. They informed all major stakeholders including the debt advice sector, Government and the enforcement industry that a case would be heard.
While Just’s virtual enforcement proposal received support there was some opposition to Just’s application from the enforcement sector. These organisations asked the Court to rule that a physical attendance and entry is always required to take control of goods regardless of the pandemic. No other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Justice have opposed the Just solution.
The recent hearing was held on November 6th at the Royal Courts of Justice, virtually and the Court’s Judgment has been delayed. Just hope that the Court will hand down Judgment in a few weeks' time.
Jamie Waller, Founder and Chairman of Just, commented: “Just created this solution because it was the right thing to do. Giving debtors the choice, not to have an enforcement agent enter their home and to instead, do this task virtually, and voluntarily, is without doubt the right thing to do.
“We have presented our views to the Court on why 'right now', modernising the approach to this stage of enforcement is necessary. Protecting the creditors ability to enforce the debts they are owed, while ensuring that those in debt are treated fairly and with respect during these difficult times must be what we all strive to do. We are hopeful that the Court will agree with the MoJ that there is nothing in Regulations that prevent virtual enforcement from going ahead. We hope to have this decision soon"