The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has announced a call for evidence to review of enforcement agent (bailiff) reforms. The call for evidence asks about people’s experiences of the 2014 reforms which regulate how enforcement agents (bailiffs) operate and to end what it calls intimidating practices and to better protect vulnerable people.

The consultation has been launched following concerns from charities, debt advice organisations and others. The Government aim is to end bad enforcement practice for good and protect families and vulnerable people from aggressive tactics

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said “The majority of bailiffs work within the law, but it is clear some are making lives a misery and ruining the industry’s reputation. My message to those individuals is clear – there is absolutely no excuse for aggressive tactics and such behaviour will not be tolerated. We will not hesitate to take action, so we’re asking the public to share their experiences to help rid our society of rogue bailiffs for good.”

Vulnerable individuals, families, and other victims of unacceptable bailiff behaviour will be asked about tougher protections, including the option of an independent regulator. The Call for Evidence will allow all those with an interest – including charities and other stakeholders – to speak out on the impact of earlier reforms and on how best to end underhand tactics.

In detail, the Government is seeking views on:

  • Ensuring compliance with earlier curbs on bailiff powers;
  • The recognition and treatment of vulnerable people when collecting debt;
  • The complaints process;
  • The current fee structure and how this is working to incentivise early payments; and
  • Suitability of current bailiff regulation and the possibility of an independent regulator.

The collection of debt is necessary for both the economy and the justice system, and bailiffs must be able to carry out their job safely and effectively. But Ministers are clear they must act professionally and with respect. Where poor behaviour takes place, the Government will not hesitate to take action.

The Call for Evidence sits alongside wider government initiatives to support vulnerable debtors, for example, the ‘Breathing Space’ scheme. It will run for 12 weeks, and responses will be analysed to inform next steps.

In response to the reforms Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said “With no system to hold them to account, rule-breaking bailiffs are causing people increased stress, anxiety and financial hardship. Almost five years on since they were introduced, it’s high time that the government review its 2014 reforms. While they may have been well-intentioned, they haven’t worked. Since then, Citizens Advice has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems.”

“This is not simply a case of a small number of bailiffs flouting the rules. Our evidence shows one third of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years experienced them pushing the limits of the law.For the government to show they’re taking this issue seriously, they must use this review to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”