Seminar on bailiffs

On 29 January the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance discussed regulation of the bailiff industry, hearing from consumer groups and trade associations.

Dr Steven Everson, from the Civil Enforcement Association, said that profit was not a “dirty word” in the sector even when the only source of income was from the debtor. Proposals from the MOJ would result in a clearer, less complicated system.

Martin Leyshon, from the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, added that his organisation was in “full support” of a clear, transparent fee structure, but pointed out that “the devil was in the detail” and he remained very cautious.

For Citizens Advice, James Sandbach said he believed there was “a systemic problem” with bailiffs that needed to be tackled and reports of aggressive behaviour were widespread. He suggested the Government had taken a long time to move only a few steps forward and said that Citizens Advice wanted to see a more comprehensive regulatory regime.

Peter Tutton, for StepChange Debt Charity, said the debate about bailiffs was usually concerned with aggressive behaviour and not the wider market and that better regulation and oversight was needed. He argued that the Government’s proposals for bailiffs “fell short” of what was needed and problems remained, in particular around bailiff conduct, fees and safeguards for people in genuine financial difficulties. The Charity wanted protection from enforcement for people unable to pay.

Mr Tutton noted that bailiffs operated in an “odd market,” where individuals could not choose their bailiff, shop around for a cheaper deal or withdraw their custom, adding that there was no consumer power in the normal sense of the word.