The UK High Court Enforcement Industry

October 12, 2019
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What are the problems and why do they need resolving?

The High Court Enforcement industry doesn’t have the best reputation. Partly, that’s just the nature of the service - collecting money that is owed from people that don’t want to pay and representing those left out of pocket by the actions of debtors. In some cases, however, the criticism is valid, the High Court Enforcement industry is relatively primitive and - without change - is in danger of becoming obsolete.

The Five Giant Challenges

With the advance of modern technology and modern ethics, there is no reason why we can’t bring the efficiency, transparency, morality, and reputation of the industry up to 21st century standards.

We can make a start by tackling five major areas identified by Just as Five Giant Challenges:

1. VAT and the correct application of fees

A lack of clarity around this issue means that VAT is currently being applied in some cases to debtors and in others to the creditor. We have sought our own legal counsel from a tax specialist in the area of VAT, Melanie Hall QC and her advice was that VAT should be applied to the creditor only. Our goal is to bring the matter to a successful conclusion as swiftly as we can, with either an amendment to the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 to allow VAT to be charged to debtors or clear guidance from the Ministry of Justice that VAT should be charged to the creditor and not the debtor as the legal opinion suggests. We are proactively lobbying government daily on this matter.

2. The renting of authority by Authorised High Court Enforcement Officers (ACHEOs) 

AHCEOs hold the oldest secular office in the land, other than that of the Crown. They’re the sheriffs of old and, when acting in conjunction with an order of the Court (Writ), they wield a lot of power. However, there are only 46 of them, so it’s common practice for the Writ to be enforced by third-party subcontracted enforcement agencies. Which is fine - as long as the AHCEO whose name is on the Writ actually pays attention to and takes responsibility for the administration and enforcement of that Writ. Sadly, this is not always the case. For some AHCEOs, renting out their authority has become a nice little earner for which they put in little actual work. The Courts have taken note of this and started to issue criticism and raise their concerns. We’ve found a way to ensure that responsibility and accountability for the enforcement of a Writ falls where it should, with the AHCEO that is issued with it.

3. Receipt of Notices of Enforcement

A Notice of Enforcement must be received by a debtor at least seven full days before an enforcement visit. Sadly, however, non-receipt of Notices is a common (and constant) complaint for the industry. There is a very easy solution to this, which we at Just intend to implement across England and Wales.

4. Vulnerability, data and behavioural insights

There is no excuse for not using modern data and behavioural insights to formulate the best strategic approaches for vulnerable debtors and to protect the reputations of creditors. Just has a plan to bring sophisticated insights into play when moving forward with the enforcement of a Writ using a single digital infrastructure across England and Wales.

5. Body-worn cameras

Body-worn cameras for enforcement are great for encouraging safety and assuring accountability. However, there are issues around bystander privacy which aren’t often considered. Using the very latest in filming technology, Just can protect the rights of bystanders while simultaneously maintaining full, filmed accountability.

 

What's next?

We’ll be going into each of these areas in more detail over the next few weeks. In general, however, Just believes that we’ve found the right solutions for these problems. We hope to improve the industry, focusing on protecting the rights of citizens, ensuring transparency, and making sure that accountability is applied in the right places and that reputation of creditors is at the centre of everything we do. Watch our vlog on Treating debtors fairly, where our Chairman will explain where Just stands in the industry and how are going to tackle these challenges.