As the Further Competition Co-Ordinator for Corporate and Financial Services within the YPO Procurement Services Team, I’ve seen many changes within the enforcement industry in the last five months. These changes include many of our supplier Enforcement Agents furloughed, regulation changes and mandatory training updates.
I recently attended a webinar by Bristow and Sutor, one of our enforcement suppliers, to gain a better understanding of what enforcement agents are doing during the current pandemic and to keep up to date with the changes in regulations.
The Government recently passed the Taking Control of Goods and Certification of Enforcement Agents (Amendment) (No. 2) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, amending regulations 10 and 23 of The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013.
The amendments apply to restrictions on the taking control of goods by enforcement agents, which will end on 23 August 2020 in respect of residential addresses. The end of these restrictions will mean that enforcement visits to residential properties and commercial properties will recommence from 24 August and the enforcement agents will be using PPE and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
What will be different:
The new approach following the pandemic is to use the 30 days re-engagement letter which outlines the process and encourages debtors to contact the enforcement agent to make payment within 30 days.
No cash payments
Enforcement agents will no longer take cash payments, only accepting electronic payments via card machine, online or by phone. There will be no taking control of goods from inside residential or commercial properties, but enforcement agents can remove goods from outside the property such as on the drive or highway.
Enforcement agents are re-assessing and looking at people’s different financial circumstances as these may have changed due to COVID-19. Debt cases can be delayed or thrown out depending on each individual case. Enforcement agents are considering this and will be filtering out vulnerable cases to minimise enforcement agent visits.
There are many more vulnerability factors to now consider such as loss of family member, self-isolating, illness with COVID-19 (effects of the virus), job loss or reduced working hours/pay.
If a debtor is shielding no visits will be made. Enforcement agents however will keep in contact via letters, phone calls and emails to reach payment. If a debtor is shielding, evidence will be required and this can be a letter from a GP to outline that they should be shielding. This should be available from the debtor to the enforcement agents and GDPR regulations will be followed at all times.
However, the situation of vulnerable people needs to be closely monitored as it will be used as a method of avoiding payment. Enforcement agents and councils will need to access and monitor each individual situation.
As a mandatory requirement, enforcement agents must complete CIVEA’s (safe working practices) training sessions on PPE and how to collect unpaid debts following COVID-19. The training also included:
- Cleaning items and vehicles
- Aim for contactless payment
- Understanding different vulnerable situations and how to proceed
Approach towards specific areas lockdown:
- Enforcement agents will be working on a client by client basis
- No enforcement agents will be making visits to lockdown areas
- Calls, emails and letters will be used to make arrangements and collect debt
- Enforcement agents who live in these areas will not be working
What local authorities should consider:
- Guard against everyone jumping into a vulnerability place. Local authorities should look at each individual debtor and see who falls under this vulnerability approach and how to proceed.
- Recovery approach and timetables may still be an uncertainty for local authorities but having these will provide the councils with a steady ground for beginning enforcement services.
Bristow and Sutor have been really proactive during lockdown by providing a number of webinars and blogs. In our next blog, we will hear from Bristow and Sutor to provide you with further information specifically surrounding them as an enforcement provider and how they’ve changed their approach during the current pandemic.
Keeping up to date with the latest changes ensures I can provide the best support and guidance to our customers through our YPO Enforcement Agency Services DPS. If you have questions or require further information about our DPS, please get in touch with the team!