Bailiff action under the spotlight after new report

The use of bailiffs to recover parking fines has once again come under the spotlight.

Money Advice Trust found that in England and Wales the use of bailiffs to recover parking fines has increased by 21 percent.

The charity, which runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, analysed that unpaid parking fines and council tax arrears made up 2.6 million debt referrals to bailiffs by councils during 2018 – 2019.

This approach has sparked criticism in recent years for being heavy-handed. Now, debt charities have renewed their concerns saying that bailiff action is harmful to people in debt and that law reform around this is vital.

Research shows that there has been a modest net improvement in debt collection practices. However, the charity says that the pace of improvement is too slow, and is calling for policy change at a local and national level.

We take a look at how BW Legal takes a sustainable approach private parking recoveries and how councils can follow suit.

Sustainable payment plans

The Money Advice Trust has written to Council Leaders and the Minister for Local Government to recommend that the Government review the enforcement of Penalty Charge Notices and allow people to pay the fine via installments.

This is a change to the current model and practice. Local Authorities often have limited insight into the customer’s circumstances which makes it difficult for them to assess the customer’s ability to pay. Furthermore, the threat of sanctions could force individuals into further financial difficulty.

At BW Legal, we help customers set up sustainable payment plans using a model which can be adopted by the Local Authorities.

For our private parking clients, we step in after their own internal collection process has been exhausted. After our client’s send out their relevant notices, we then carry out a pre legal campaign (which could range between 60 to 90 days) before any legal action is considered against those customers who fail to pay the parking charge.

The key for us is to prevent taking any legal action against a customer if they are willing to engage with us.

Treating Customers Fairly is a standard set by the Financial Conduct Authority and is at the heart of our business ethic. We focus on understanding our customer’s circumstances to find the best solution for them and our client. For example, any customer who is considered vulnerable is managed by our specialist team where legal action is not deemed an appropriate route by us.

Business Intelligence Platforms

We have a sophisticated digital platform which allows us to speak to our customer’s through web chat and enables them to manage their account online.

From this, we are able to offer the same service as we would on a telephone call, and such a step of engaging a customer before taking legal action, should be the standard across our industry.

So when are bailiffs appropriate?

While bailiffs are not always appropriate in every case, there will always be some persistent non payers who do have the means to pay, but will not pay because they simply don’t want to.

It is important to note, however, that even after a claim or enforcement is issued, we remain focused on engaging with the customer to bring the matter to a conclusion.

Under our process, the Local Authority will naturally see an increase in their compliance rates and revenue simply by working with customers, including those with low income household budgets, by setting up sustainable installment plans.

Whilst legal action and enforcement action is sometimes necessary, it is not our immediate action. We work with hard to communicate with our client’s customers to resolve matters prior to considering any form of legal action.

All this ultimately leads to more returns for the Local Authority, which in turn should allow for more investment and growth for the local community and infrastructure.

Get in touch

For further information on BW Legal’s collection approach to Private & Local Authority Parking please contact Rohan Krishnarao – Solicitor, Head of Client Legal Strategy on 0113 468 3000 or email rkrishnarao@bwlegal.co.uk

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