A new survey of court users has found the vast majority are calling for greater freedom of choice over how their judgments are enforced – with 97% supporting the right to use a High Court enforcement route when recovering money owed to them.
The figures – just released by the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) in its 2022 Supporting Court Users – A Right to Freedom of Choice report, highlight that court users have been calling for change from the UK Government for the past seven years.
The new report shows that:
- 97% of court users would like the freedom to choose between a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) and County Court Bailiff to enforce their unregulated judgments under £600
- 93% of court users support a further change allowing HCEOs to collect debts arising from Consumer Credit Act regulated agreements
- 96% of court users are still concerned about County Court delays
- just 4% of court users feel the current system meets their needs.
The HCEOA is marking 2023 as “Time for Freedom of Choice” and is calling on Government to take action to allow court users more freedom by making two small changes in regulations to allow court users to choose a HCEO to enforce judgments and recover regulated and unregulated debts under £600.
The changes would not mean an increase in enforcement fees. The HCEOA is proposing that the fees that HCEOs charge for collecting debts under £600 should match the non-High Court fee scale for debts of the same amount – they would be 100% in line with the current system.
The call from court users comes following significant delays in the County Court system. The vast majority – 96% – of court users reported concern over delays when using the County Courts, with many citing they have stopped trying to recover some debts altogether.
This means that individuals and businesses are just writing off money they are owed rather than dealing with the current court system. As a result, many businesses are having to increase their prices to absorb these losses, or risk going into debt themselves.
Alan J. Smith, Chair of the HCEOA, said: “For the past year we have been engaging constructively with the Government to ask for a change to the High Court and County Court Jurisdiction Order 1991, which would allow High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to enforce judgments and recover unregulated debts under £600.
“Government has listened, but we believe 2023 is now the time for action on this issue, and also on regulated debts, as our survey shows court users can’t afford further delays.
“We’ve been listening to concerns raised by court users since 2015 on the lack of choice available to them for recovering the money they are owed and believe High Court Enforcement Officers could help them.
“We are urging the Government to take action now and support the thousands of UK businesses and individuals who would benefit from these changes.”
This solution has been backed by the Civil Court Users Association.
Robert Thompson, Chair of the Civil Court Users Association, said: “The HCEOA’s Freedom of Choice report is a powerful document that makes a strong case for giving court users more flexibility. I know from discussions with court users that anything that can be done to simplify and speed up the process of recovering debts through the courts would be welcome, and the CCUA supports the changes proposed here, which will provide greater freedom choice and flexibility.”
Changes to the current regulations would alleviate delays to the court system, giving the County Court Bailiffs the time needed to work through the backlog of cases from outstanding judgments, and take on new cases from creditors who do not want to transfer up lower amounts of debt.