In August 2020 in response to the pandemic a provider of debt collection services, Just, designed a video solution that would allow bailiffs to seize people’s assets, without entering their home.
Since then, the Royal Courts of Justice handed down a judgment that approved the process of taking control of a debtor’s goods virtually, without a physical attendance to a home. A landmark event in the history of enforcement that will give bailiffs the right to take control of people’s goods virtually using Zoom. The benefit to those in debt however is the opportunity to set up lengthy payment plans without a bailiff being in their home which previously would have cost them hundreds of pounds.
Virtual Enforcement Visits were due to launch back in August 2020, but the process was challenged by many traditional firms on the belief that taking control of goods virtually was unlawful. They were sure that a physical visit was always required along with the charges of £200+. They were obviously concerned that should a virtual enforcement visit be allowed they would be restricted from visiting people physically and charging hundreds of pounds.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) that is responsible for drafting and publishing the regulations that govern bailiffs did not agree that the process was unlawful but as a precaution, Just the enforcement market integrator took the decision to ask the Court to scrutinise their proposal using the CPR Part 8 procedure. A Part 8 claim is an alternative procedure to the usual method of bringing a test case and is used with matters where the Claimant is seeking the Court’s decision on an issue that doesn’t involve a substantial dispute of fact. It can be used to seek a declaration from the Court as to correct interpretations on points of law.
During the proceedings, interested parties, including the enforcement industry trade associations were invited to submit evidence and set out their positions. A number of interested parties participated, but only two challenges were received by the industry trade associations that represent the traditional enforcement firms. The hearing was held virtually over two days and the judgment was handed down on Friday 9th January.
Allowing a bailiff into a person’s home by Zoom might seem intrusive but when the alternative is a bailiff stood in your bedroom having charged you hundreds of pounds, the solution actually, especially in today’s world of an international pandemic seems a sensible approach.
Just’s Founder and Chairman and ex BBC star of ‘Beat the Bailiff’, Jamie Waller said: “Designing a solution that allowed bailiffs to work from home, protected debtors from bailiffs visiting them and spreading the virus and saving debtor’s money while ensuring the creditors were paid what is owed was clearly the right thing to do. I am pleased that it was an innovation by Just”.