In this weeks Leading the Way blog, we explain why enforcement is an integral part of the collections process and provide some helpful information on common misconceptions.
Bristow & Sutor enforcement agents (EAs) help local authorities and clients such as Transport for London recover millions of pounds of lost revenue in unpaid taxes and fines each year. This can include outstanding council tax, parking and traffic offences and more. We are not debt collectors and only get in contact after clients have tried to engage in communication themselves but have either not had a response, or there is a wilful refusal to pay or engage.
When Bristow & Sutor receives an instruction, statutory fees and charges will be applied to the case. Some believe that enforcement firms apply charges at random but in truth, the fee structure is regulated and set out in the law. The fees are designed to encourage people to make contact at an early stage and to cover the resources required when a debt continues to be left unpaid, such as sending EAs to conduct visits.
An EA certificate is granted by a Judge from the County Court and must be renewed every two years. All Bristow & Sutor agents wear body-worn cameras and video footage is constantly reviewed to monitor conduct and performance.
What outcomes does enforcement lead to?
Enforcement is an essential deterrent and directly affects local communities, providing funding for essential frontline services such as adult social care, refuse collections, police and fire services. When somebody chooses not to pay their council owed debts, the people they are impacting most are their own neighbours. Uncollected tax means less money for services and higher bills for the majority of the community who do pay on time.
Recovering funds has always been important for the aforementioned reasons, but this is even more integral post COVID-19 when budgets are stretched and more people than ever need support from local councils. It is also common for EAs to be the first to identify those who are vulnerable when they visit their homes. If our agents encounter vulnerable people, enforcement action is suspended and we refer that person for additional support to dedicated welfare teams. In many cases, it is engagement with a Bristow & Sutor EA that has resulted in people getting the support they have needed.
Trust the facts and the law
Unfortunately, despite our efforts to share the best ways to resolve cases of debt, some common misconceptions still get shared via channels that people trust, such as social media, public forums and even in national press and broadcast media. It is important to understand that the enforcement process is completely legal and enforced on behalf of local authorities and the Government. The easiest way to resolve debt is to contact us and discuss your circumstances, we are bound to the CIVEA code of practice and will work with you to find the most appropriate solution. One of the most unhelpful narratives is that by ignoring the problem or trying to avoid speaking with us the problem will go away. In actuality, this will only see the debt owed increase and make the situation worse.
For example, fixing an immobilisation device as a method of taking control of a car is in accordance with Section 11(1)(a) of Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and Regulation 16 of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013. It is against the law for immobilisation devices to be removed from vehicles after an EA has fitted it and when a vehicle that remains controlled goods is moved from where it was clamped, this is committing an offence and interfering with controlled goods under section 68(2) of Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. If found guilty of this offence, a person is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment, a fine or both. The fees charged are set by a scale in the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.
We recognise the importance of transparent conversations, broadening knowledge and increasing understanding, which is why we work closely with the debt advice sector and regularly offer training on our methods and approach.
In addition to our weekly blog and daily activity on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, we have recently launched a new webcast, offering tips and advice from members of staff and guests from across the industry. You can subscribe and watch for free by clicking here.
If you are struggling to pay your debt, please contact us as soon as possible. We are available to talk by phone, WhatsApp, Live Chat or via our website. Bristow & Sutor remains committed to its approach of being Cool, Calm and Collected.