In a recent dispute with Merton Council, a woman named in the press as Mrs. X claimed that a Enforcement Agent ‘argument’ with her mentally ill son had caused undue stress for the whole family.
The Enforcement Agent had attended over unpaid council tax and it was alleged that a confrontation over an outstanding amount had resulted in the bailiff adding an extra £110 sale and disposal fee.
The real cause for concern here was that a vulnerable debtor (or debtor’s son in this case) had been subject to a situation that worsened their condition or caused unnecessary upset.
That was of course, until the body worn camera footage was reviewed…
It turned out that this apparent confrontation was only one part of a long and convoluted story, during which the Enforcement Agent had acted patiently and with consideration for vulnerability as well.
The footage actually showed an encounter where the Enforcement Agent seemed to grant leniency by suggesting he wouldn’t be charging the fee at all.
As the story unfolded, it turns out that Mrs. X had been in Council Tax arrears for some time, and that the Enforcement Agent had attended and made contact on several occasions.
The final visit did see some words exchanged between the Enforcement Agent and the debtor’s son, but these concerned an arrangement to remove a television rather than a car, and no serious breach of practice was discussed.
The Ombudsman was involved, but only found that the sale and disposal fee, which was eventually charged, was added to the bill at the wrong stage, resulting in this fee being removed from the debt altogether.
A spokesperson from Merton Council said they were pleased with the decision, which highlighted only a technicality in terms of the scheduling of additional fees, and not any form of bullying or intimidation on the Enforcement Agent’s part, as had perhaps been implied in the original complaint.
The lesson here is in the value of body worn cameras and accurate record keeping.
A potential ‘he said, she said’ situation was avoided entirely, as footage was reviewed and records were examined.
The vulnerability of debtors is always given consideration, but so too should the integrity of Enforcement Agents.
Body worn cameras help with that.
A mistake was made and it was corrected.
All sides were able to move on upon the eventual settlement of the debt.
A happy ending of sorts.
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