Tougher laws needed to clamp down on rogue bailiffs, says MP
Ministers have been urged to take action against rogue bailiffs accused of using aggressive tactics against a disabled woman.
Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds said two bailiffs entered the home of one of her constituents last year without ID and took cash from her purse to pay for a parking fine incurred due to her disabled badge being out of date.
The Labour MP raised the issue during a parliamentary debate on the regulation of bailiffs. She said it was "unacceptable" that many people had "suffered at the hands of aggressive bailiffs, who seem to think that they are above the law".
"Debt collectors and debt advice charities are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, but bailiffs are an anomaly in all this and do not have independent regulation," she added.
Ms Reynolds, who led a debate on the issue in Parliament last year, urged ministers to bring in an independent regulator for the industry.
The Government has launched a 'call for evidence' aimed at addressing the behaviour of bailiffs, while a Justice Committee report published this month hit out at how the industry handled complaints.
Responding to Ms Reynolds, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: "Regulation is one of the questions that we are asking in the call for evidence.
"We will look at the evidence – we have had quite a lot of evidence submitted – and we will be responding to that point about regulation.
"The Justice Committee made a number of interesting recommendations and put forward some proposals, and we will of course look at those in due course as well."
In its report the committee highlighted "worrying" examples of vulnerable people with health conditions being threatened with prison and incorrectly being made to pay other people's debts.
It said bailiffs should be forced to wear body cameras when collecting debts to stop rogue operators from breaking the law and pressurising vulnerable people.
MPs called on the Government to form a new watchdog with the power to ban "unfit" bailiffs from collecting debts, and to “change culture and raise standards” in the under-regulated industry.
The committee said the current complaints procedure for dealing with rogue bailiffs was “fragmented and hard to navigate”, particularly for elderly and vulnerable people.
Debt charity StepChange estimates there have been 850,000 cases of misconduct by bailiffs in the past two years, making the case for change "urgent".
The charity's head of policy Peter Tutton, said: “Enforcement by bailiffs is intrusive and places disproportionate costs on people in the most vulnerable circumstances."