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Citizens Advice responds to Financial Ombudsman Service's debt collection figure

In response to the Financial Ombudsman Service’s quarterly update on debt collection figures, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“While concerning, these figures show the steps that can be taken to address problems in a regulated sector.

“But when people have household bill debts pursued by bailiffs, for example council tax or energy, they lack the same level of protection. Bailiffs are breaking rules designed to protect those who’re struggling and this causes stress, anxiety and further financial harm.

“The Ministry of Justice have the evidence in front of them to establish a bailiff regulator. It now needs to follow through. An independent complaints process must also be introduced, like in the financial services sector, so bailiff complaints can be reviewed independently of the industry.”

Background

Since 2014, it has been more common for people to come to Citizens Advice for help with household bill debts - such as council tax - than with problems related to consumer credit debts.

Citizens Advice figures show bailiffs broke rules designed to help people who’re struggling, 850,000 times in the past two years.

The lack of an effective complaints system means bailiffs are not held to account. Its analysis of YouGov polling also shows that 72% of people who experience a bailiff breaking the rules do not complain at all because:

  • It is unclear how to make a complaint
  • The pressure of bailiff enforcement action puts people off complaining
  • There is a lack of faith in the process

Figures obtained by Citizens Advice from the Ministry of Justice also show just 56 complaints were made through a court-based process introduced as part of the bailiff reforms in 2014.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  2. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
  3. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
  4. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
  5. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  7. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 to talk in Welsh.
  8. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  9. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.

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