Charities Call for Government Action Against ‘Rule-breaking’ Debt Collectors
November 14, 2018
Two of the UK’s foremost debt help charities have called on the government to take action against debt collectors who are routinely leaving people across the country stressed out and in serious financial difficulty.
Citizens Advice and Step Change have said that regulators need to clamp down on the activities of bailiffs who bend or break the rules designed to protect indebted consumers.
According to the charities, there is now data to suggest that someone in England and Wales is forced to deal with a “rule-breaking” bailiff at an average rate of once every minute.
Citizens Advice says it has recorded a 24 per cent increase in the number of people dealing with problems caused by bailiffs since 2014.
Indeed, the charity cites problems with bailiffs as being among the most commonly raised issues among its clients who are struggling to manage their debts.
Negative experiences with bailiffs are known to cause stress and anxiety but they can also lead to a further deterioration in an individual’s personal finances.
Citizens Advice and Step Change want to see more action taken against bailiffs who are unsympathetic towards people with illnesses or disabilities, those who threaten to break into a debtor’s home and those who take away items needed for professional purposes.
Ultimately, the charities want to see individuals being much better protected from bailiffs if they are unable to meet payment demands, especially if they are legitimately seeking to pay off their debts but can’t do so upfront because they lack the disposable income.
According to Citizens Advice, the nature of debt problems across the country have changed significantly over the course of this decade.
The charity says that since 2011, there has been a marked shift among its clients from a focus on consumer credit problems towards discussions about debts associated with essential bills.
“Too often bailiffs, and the firms they work for, are a law unto themselves,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. “This is inflicting widespread harm on people and their families and it has to stop.”
“The fact is that all the main debt advice charities are continuing to see too many cases where bailiffs are breaking the rules,” added Phil Andrew from the debt help charity Step Change.
“This is completely unacceptable, especially as the people on the receiving end are often distressed, vulnerable and unempowered,” he said.