Ombudsman Promises Action Against Bailiffs Behaving Badly
February 6, 2019
The Financial Ombudsman Service has promised to take strong action against businesses and bailiffs acting on their behalf who break the rules or behave aggressively in pursuit of money they believe to be owed to them.
The organisation is responsible for independently adjudicating on cases where complaints are made against financial services firms or the people they hire to retrieve money they’re owed.
Newly released figures compiled by the regulator show that around a third of all the complaints it received relating to debt collection situations last year were upheld in favour of the complainants.
According to the same data, one in five complaints were made on the basis of claims that the amounts being demanded by debt collectors were wrong, while 13 per cent of cases involved people who insisted they were being chased for money they simply didn’t owe.
The ombudsman has made clear that it believes bad practice among debt collectors can make life much more difficult for people who are already in a vulnerable position.
“Businesses’ lack of empathy or flexibility can create additional problems for people who are struggling, and potentially in vulnerable circumstances,” the regulator has said.
“We’ll use our powers to ensure this doesn’t continue – and in some cases, tell businesses to pay compensation for the upset they’ve caused.”
The remit and jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service covers only the financial services industry, which means it cannot give rulings relating to debt collectors who are pursuing household debts associated with council taxes or energy bills.
Citizens Advice has been calling for the government to create an ombudsman that can help provide better protection for people who are being pursued for debts owed to non-financial organisations and companies.
“When people have household bill debts pursued by bailiffs, for example council tax or energy, they lack the same level of protection,” Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s chief executive, has said.
“Bailiffs are breaking rules designed to protect those who’re struggling and this causes stress, anxiety and further financial harm,” she said.
“The Ministry of Justice have the evidence in front of them to establish a bailiff regulator. It now needs to follow through.”