Enforcement: What’s New for 2022?
We wonder what changes are in store for the world of enforcement this year. While some changes are certain, we can only hope that others are coming for the benefit of creditors and providing them with more access to justice for recovering debts of all sizes.
The Enforcement Conduct Authority
One change that is certainly on the horizon and likely to come into effect within the near future is the establishment of the new Enforcement Conduct Authority (ECA) as an independent regulator for the sector.
The Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) report “Taking Control for Good – Introducing the Enforcement Conduct Authority” was released in July of last year. In 2020 the CSJ founded the Enforcement Oversight Working Group, bringing together the enforcement and debt advice sectors for the first time to collaboratively develop a vision for reform.
In a process of intensive discussion and consultation, the Working Group has designed a new, independent and fully funded oversight body, with the functions and authority to drive progress in areas including:
- addressing inconsistent enforcement agent behaviour
- complaints system reform
- ensuring fair treatment of people experiencing hardship or other vulnerabilities
The Enforcement Conduct Authority (ECA) will be launched soon and deliver a clear mandate to ensure fair treatment and appropriate protection for people subject to enforcement. This includes:
- raising standards through the development of new rules, conditions and competencies, to be developed in consultation with the enforcement industry
- supervising practice and issuing proportionate sanctions for rule-breaking and behaviour below the standard required of the industry
- improving accountability through a standardised two-stage complaints process
- independently adjudicating escalated complaints
- introducing fair, affordable repayment and vulnerability protocols
Court Enforcement Services welcomes this development.
Freedom of Choice for Creditors
Last year we reported on a survey carried out by the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) that found that nearly 99% of court users support wider access to justice and freedom of choice to choose who enforces their judgments to enable them to use a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) rather than the County Court Bailiff to recover their unpaid debts.
86% of the court users surveyed have faced significant delays when using the County Court system for debt recovery and many have given up altogether on trying to enforce their unpaid judgment debts.
Good cash flow is the lifeblood of any business and if judgment debts cannot be recovered and must be written off, there is a risk that some businesses will end up in a difficult financial situation themselves with some facing insolvency or even closure.
The results of the survey clearly demonstrate the need to open up the option to enable creditors to choose whether they instruct a County Court Bailiff or HCEO to enforce their judgment debts, which, are under £600 as HCEO’s are currently restricted from doing so under the regulations.
The survey carried out and subsequent report produced by the HCEOA drives forward the case for a change in the regulations to allow court users to choose a HCEO to recover judgment debts under £600. Currently, where a judgment debt is under £600, creditors have no choice but to use the County Court Bailiff.
The results of the survey revealed that:
- Almost 99% of court users want freedom of choice to choose between instructing either a County Court Bailiff or HCEO to enforce their judgments.
- 96% would like to see a change in the regulations to give the option of using a HCEO to recover debts under £600 instead of a County Court Bailiff.
- 97% are concerned about the backlog in the County Court with 86% having experienced delays.
- 5% consider the current system is effective and meets their needs.
- 35% would issue more proceedings for debts under £600 if they were able to choose a HCEO to enforce their judgments.
The problem could be easily solved by a minor change to the High Court and County Court Jurisdiction Order 1991, which, could enable HCEO’s to enforce judgment debts under £600. Such a change gives creditors freedom of choice and wider access to justice than is currently available.
Daron Robinson, Managing Director of Court Enforcement Services said: “I hope the results of this survey and report are seriously considered by the Ministry of Justice to consider giving court users the freedom of choice they need to recover their judgment debts more efficiently. £600 sounds like a small sum but to many individuals and small businesses owed such sums, it can be life changing. Businesses with numerous debts of this size do not have a suitable solution for enforcement and no route to recovery and can be left facing cash flow difficulties and the risk of insolvency.”
Daron continued: “Ultimately, a judgment is a worthless piece of paper unless it can be enforced effectively. The feedback from court users here clearly demonstrates that the County Court system is not working efficiently and High Court enforcement is the obvious solution. The private sector is here, ready and waiting and well equipped to undertake this work efficiently for the benefit of all creditors.”
The HCEOA and CCUA continue to lobby for this change and we hope that the MOJ are seriously considering making it in light of the findings of the survey.
For further press information, please contact:
Neil Jinks FCICM IRRV
Head of Client Development & Communications