If a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you states that you are required to repay the debt then you must make the repayments stipulated by the court order, or your creditor can seek a “warrant of execution”. Should this happen, county court bailiffs may be called in to help recover the debt. If you owe money to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), have unpaid magistrates’ court fines, or have outstanding council tax/parking penalty notices owed to your Local Authority, then private bailiffs may be asked to recover the balance.

What is the difference between a bailiff and a debt collector?

Debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs as they are not court appointed officials. They cannot enter your home or seize your possessions as a bailiff might be able to, but can contact you or visit you to discuss your debt and how you plan to pay it back. Debt collection agencies may be employed by your creditors to ask you to pay off your debt and are required to follow the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) debt collection guidance.

Consumer protection rules

The consumer protection rules have been in effect since 2008, and were developed to prevent traders from treating consumers unfairly. They also outline to what extent so called “aggressive commercial practices” might be used. The OFT and Trading Standards are able to take enforcement action against creditors that threaten or harass you excessively.

Financial Ombudsman Service

If you have a grievance with the treatment you are receiving from your creditors, you may be able to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) about their behaviour whilst dealing with your account. Before you take your case to the Ombudsman, you should first attempt to use the creditors’ own complaints procedures. If you feel that you have cause for complaint but would like further advice first, you might consider getting in touch with Consumer Direct.

Being harassed?

If you are being harassed by debt collection agencies you should call you Local Authority’s Trading Standards department, but if a debt collector is threatening you then you should call the police as this could constitute assault.

If you have become involved with a loan shark or illegal moneylender and are subsequently feeling threatened, you can call or email special government ‘Report a loan shark’ teams to receive specialist advice. In England, Wales and Scotland these hotlines are open 24 hours a day.

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