Posts Tagged ‘rules’

Bailiffs get unreasonable powers

May 1, 2009

I had earlier had the view that bailiffs were well contained by sensible limits. Thanks to The Times online I find this is not now so.

You may at times have thought me unreasonably hostile to this government; however I further view this as a little snide piece from a business dominated group.

Thanks to the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust the new measures are being fought vigorously and Jack Straw has already taken some action to mitigate the legislation. However, some measures which need to be understood remain.

Councils are already making more use of bailiffs, says The Times, to collect Council Tax arrears. Our ‘People’s’ ministers were going to extend bailiffs’ powers so they can use force when to seize goods in cases of civil debts.

We are indebted to Zacchaeus and its new lawyer, Joanna Kennedy, for forcing a halt to this return to the bad old days. Kennedy’s and the trust’s aim remains to roll back the legislation – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 – ‘ “…and although ministers have said that they will not enact them, they remain on the statute book. So the Government could change its mind at any time. We’d like the provision to allow the use of force and effect forcible entry removed entirely.” ‘

Here! Here! Bailiffs still have a right to use force over unpaid criminal fines under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, such as for non-payment of a TV licence or motoring offence. For the past 400 years until that Act, entry to a person’s home had to be peaceful.

What a disgusting piece of legislation from a disgusting Government.

Quite incredibly the details of MoJ guidance to bailiffs on forcible entry appears to have been made a state secret!. These have been withheld “for reasons of the health and safety of bailiffs”. How, trust chairman Reverend Paul Nicolson, asks, “can we or the magistrates’ courts tell if bailiffs are keeping the rules if the rules are kept secret?”

Under a Freedom of Information request, a version of the guidance was released, with 15 of 30 pages redacted. An appeal to the Information Commissioner led to reissued guidance last autumn with different redactions — including some parts previously seen.

To put it mildly this is a business government. And a total betrayal of the founding of the Labour Party. That party was formed to fight the very excesses by business that Brown and his band are bringing back onto the statute book. It makes the Tories look positively socialist!

Explaining her new role Kennedy explains: “I had been a lawyer for 30 years and I enjoyed it, but increasingly I found the amorality of the commercial legal process frustrating and I wanted to do something a bit more worthwhile. A lot of it,” she added, “was making the rich richer and, as lawyers, becoming rich yourself.”

Welcome to the world of defending the under-privileged Joanna; more strength to your elbow and those of Rev Nicholson and Zacchaeus. We certainly need you.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

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Negotiating With Creditors for Changes in Terms and Loan and Debt Schedules – 4

September 25, 2008

Let’s now talk about the repayments and the charges from creditors.

So far this set of blogs has covered the basic thinking for a negotiation, what the companies are like and the need for understanding the rules, and my ever-critical view of interest rates.

Repayments are a contractual obligation, and nothing I say should be seen as altering that basic point. There are however many different ways of viewing what this means in practice. Especially bearing in mind the matter of force majeure.

When the debtor – you and I – are able to pay without any problems there is no reason for varying the payment schedule, unless it is to match changes on your own income receipts or to put right a change made by the creditor using his supposed right to vary any terms unilaterally. There are reports of this being done to trigger late payment charges.

There are also cases of increasing repayments by 50% by upping the monthly percentage, which obviously causes budget stress and increases the likelihood of triggering charges.

More significant in the call for repayment variations is the reduction of personal disposable income. There are many ways this can happen. I would suggest that among these is loss of bonus, loss of job and taking lower paying jobs, the effects of inflation, additional family commitments and accident or ill-health problems.

The majority of creditors will discuss lower payments, though they have their own ideas of what lower means. For you this is a matter of redoing your budget and seeing how that places you. This is the information that will inform each of we debtors and this will also inform them.

Since it is my view that inflation is about to show some serious muscle I advise frequent and regular personal budget reviews.

You do need to think in terms of treating all creditors equally, so the usual way is to establish what you might be able to afford and apportion that in relation to each debt. If you have any difficulty sorting it out any of the online charities will give help. Maybe the excellent fora – forums if you prefer – will have mathematical geniuses who will put a little time in to giving you the answers.

Don’t take no for an answer and don’t let the creditors bully.

And then… and then… and then is the matter of penalties and special charges. These are applied in all sorts of ways and are purely profit centres for the creditors.

In a ruling early this year the Office of Fair Trading determined that charges should relate to the actual costs that the charges relate to. anything above that becomes a fine, and there is no legal support of companies to levy fines.

Unfortunately the OFT also stated a maximum level for a bundle of different charges and set it at £12. this was less than the previous figure of £20 – and sometimes £25 0r £30. Of course putting it this way was a gift to the creditors who immediately made all charges £12 [and I would be interested in any evidence of new types of charges being levied at that time].

Now it is my contention that these charges are mostly illegal fines. The reason rests on the rules of fairness and the point in the ruling about relating to costs. I will talk only about late fees, but this will stand for others as well.

Examine the way a late fee is determined and levied (as a fine). The computer – yes, the computer – has a program written by groups of clever fellows to do all the paperwork, calculate interest, instantly apply changes of all kinds, and react to the time a payment is received.

If the deadline is midnight and the payment comes in a one minute past – maybe one second – the computer automatically triggers the late fee script and sets it for the following statement. On the statement this requires a miniscule amount of bulk-purchased ink or powder and enough extra time on the automatic printing system to print one extra line.

If you have ever seen those in action you know we are talking about a fraction of a second. The script action requires no extra time since it is a choice of options. At a guess we are talking 0.0001p for the ink and 0.001p for the time.

So by my estimate a £12 levy includes a justifiable charge of 0.0011 and a fine of £11 99.9989p.

If anyone has figures to disprove this estimate I welcome them. The idea floated by one senior executive that there is a little man in a smoke-filled back office checking every charge is not just risible, but an obvious …er… mis-statement.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man