Its been a while since we last blogged, we wanted to assure you that we are still here but are currently all engaged in a case which requires every person on our team.
We just wanted to thank you for waiting and to say we will be back very soon!!
Its been a while since we last blogged, we wanted to assure you that we are still here but are currently all engaged in a case which requires every person on our team.
We just wanted to thank you for waiting and to say we will be back very soon!!
We have had a massive response to our article regarding bailiffs and the tactics used by them. Since the last article we have had over 30 emails asking us to clarify guidelines that are in place to ensure fair play .
We will refer ( for best practice ) to the OFT guidelines and list them for ease;
The OFT raised a concern that some standard collection letters do not make clear who the letter is from. The DCG states that a failure of those contacting debtors to make clear who they are and why they are making contact would be regarded as a misleading or unfair business practice (DCG paragraph 2.2c). The following are examples of areas where lack of transparency can arise.
i. Use of Trading Styles
The use of different trading styles by an organisation could potentially be misleading if the organisation is not identified. Some debt collection agencies (“DCAs”) use different trading styles to escalate debts through the collection cycle and some also use different trading styles or departments to differentiate between the types of recovery activity which may take place. For example, if a debtor has previously informed the DCA of severe financial hardship, the debt may be referred to a specialist „Financial Hardship‟ unit.
However, whenever a trading style is used, the OFT has made it clear that they see no legitimate purpose in failing to be transparent and therefore if the debt is being escalated or transferred to a different department within the same company and/or to a different company within the same group of companies (an associated company under s.184 CCA74), the collection letter should make this and the reason for that escalation or transfer, clear.
The Association has produced a Best Practice Guidance Note which refers specifically to the use of Trading Styles.
A lack of transparency can also arise if information is presented in a way which could create a false/misleading impression, including using terms which overstate the nature of the business. For example, using terms in trading names such as ‘enforcement’, ‘legal’, ‘solicitors’ and so on, when there are no appropriately qualified staff. Members are reminded that it is a criminal offence for a company to act in a manner that implies it is ‘qualified or recognised by law to act as a solicitor’ when this is not the case.
In accordance with the spirit of the DCG, Members should take care when choosing font styles and sizes to ensure they are reasonable as the OFT believes they could lead to transparency issues. For example, font size less than 10 point could be difficult to read. Gothic text may also be difficult to read and has connotations associated with legal documents and should therefore be avoided.
v-i. Describing the legal process
The OFT has seen a number of standard letters issued by DCAs which contain inaccuracies and omissions in their description of the debt recovery procedure and the legal process and which fail to mention that steps are required before enforcement action can be taken. For example:
letters which set out the potential enforcement actions following non payment of a County Court Judgment (e.g. bailiffs seizing goods, employers deducting money from wages) without indicating that a further application to the court is required before enforcement action can be taken (i.e. to obtain a warrant of execution, attachment of earnings, charging order etc); or
letters referring to bankruptcy and charging orders where it is not clear that a staged process is involved.
Sending such letters, would in the OFT‟s view, potentially be an unfair or oppressive business practice in breach of paragraphs 2.2b, 2.4b and/or 2.6g of the DCG
Although the OFT does not expect to see every stage of the process set out in letters of this type, a correct indication of the stages before enforcement action can be taken should be provided to prevent letters from being misleading, potentially exploiting debtors’ lack of knowledge and being perceived by recipients as threatening.
Members are reminded that the granting of judgments and other orders are court decisions and letters should not pre-empt a particular outcome e.g. that a judgment WILL be made.
If a DCA wants to refer to the process that may be followed after a debt is unpaid it is the responsibility of the DCA to understand and correctly state the process.
v-iii Timing of issue of letters referring to legal action
The OFT regards it as an unfair and oppressive business practice if letters threatening legal action are issued to individuals if the DCA is not reasonably certain that the address they have is the debtor‟s address.
As set out in paragraph 2v, DCAs act in good faith on the information provided to them by their client at the time of instruction, and a distinction can be made between „trace and collect‟ and non trace and collect instructions.
However, letters which refer to legal action would, in the OFT’s view, have the potential to be perceived as a threat of legal action and therefore could be an unfair and oppressive business practice:
against someone who has a legitimate dispute with the original creditor
when information on the account may be incorrect and the account could not
be pursued through the courts, for example if the debt is statute barred
Therefore, even on non trace and collect instructions where the DCA is relying on the information provided by the creditor as being accurate, the DCA should consider if reference to legal proceedings in a first letter is appropriate.
With regard to disputes, the Association has made it clear to the OFT that, at the time of instruction, Members will be unaware if the debt is disputed, as they have to rely on clients not referring disputed debts or because the debtor may not have raised this with the client prior to the DCA‟s involvement.
The Association also stressed to the OFT that the debtor will have received numerous correspondence and attempts at contact from the client (or in the case of secondary and tertiary debt, a previous agent), prior to a debt being referred to the DCA. These letters would have informed the debtor about potential action which could be taken, including referral to a third party DCA or legal action.
As set out above, it is essential that debt collection letters are factual and highlight the potential action which could be taken should there be a failure to pay.
Members are reminded that bankruptcy proceedings can only be initiated on debts over £750. Therefore any threat of bankruptcy proceedings (including statutory demands) in letters where the debt amount is less than £750 would be in breach of the CSA Code of Practice and potentially be an unfair and oppressive business practice under the DCG.
The Association therefore suggests, that when issuing standard debt collection letters on debts below £750, any reference to bankruptcy as a possible course of action, be removed.
Statements and Phrases
The use of certain statements in standard letters gives the OFT cause for concern and they gave the following as an example:
“THIS PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY AND WE INTEND TO RECOVER THE FULL AMOUNT YOU OWE WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY”
In the OFT‟s view, such statements could in some circumstances breach paragraph 2.6g of the DCG.
The Association is keen to work with the OFT on this matter, however, it feels that the use of such statements can also in other circumstances give a clear message to the debtor and highlights the importance of making contact in order to avoid potential legal action.
However, Members are reminded that the wording of letters must not be misleading and should be used appropriately. In the above example, if the Member has the option to discuss a repayment arrangement with the debtor, this should be made clear in the body of the letter so the debtor is fully aware.
xi Sensitive Cases
The issues highlighted within this Guidance are of particular relevance where it transpires that the case is sensitive e.g. the individual has mental health problems, long term or terminal illness or other disabilities which impact on the debtor’s ability to pay. Where a DCA becomes aware of such cases the OFT and the Association would expect measures to be in place to ensure that such cases receive appropriate handling.
The CSA Code of Practice provides details of how Members should deal with sensitive cases. The Association has also produced Guidance on Mental Health and Members may also find the MALG Guidance on the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form useful.
To view this document please go to the OFT WEBSITE
Theres nothing like putting a resident at a disadvantage, in fact it seems that it is something medway council see as a MUST!
We often see the ‘big brother state’ controlling much of what we do and more so seeing what we do as one of the leading countries in the world leader board for CCTV in public places. You probably ask yourself who is in this ring of intelligence and why do they need to cohort in the way they do??
Well lets look at an issue thats close to home to start with. Many people over the years have questioned the true role of a magistrates court, many have aired their concerns that magistrates courts are simply ” profit making” organisations, further more the matter is not really helped much by the very fact many magistrates courts are listed on the duport website as ” profit making businesses”. Adding to this we look at how medway council pay a FEE to the magistrates court to hold hearings which apparently are criminal offenses.
One report we hear very often is that residents facing court proceedings believe they are facing a magistrate who is on the side of the local authority, they feel that there cannot be an impartial view. Again and rather worryingly we know that local authorities often apply indirect pressure to magistrates to increase sentencing and the like. We know that medway council ((for instance)) invited representatives to a meeting to discuss the sentencing policy [ can be confirmed by clicking here ] this makes alot of us feel uneasy about a possible prejudicial view from the magistrate at medway magistrates court, but there is more! A more worrying factor. Look at the magistrates here and you will see a very worrying link, what you say? Well a medway Councillor who needless to say is paid by medway council and employed by medway council is also a magistrate! Employed by medway council Cllr craig Mackinlay is also appointed to the ‘Regeneration, Community and culture scrutiny and overview committee, this being an appointment which includes;
This Committee scrutinises services and policies relating to regeneration, community and culture. These include community safety, environmental health, CCTV and ENFORCEMENT the wardens’ service, traffic management and highway schemes, the Rural Strategy, economic development and social regeneration, the management of events, heritage attractions and tourism, the Cultural Strategy, leisure, arts, sports, recreational activities, social inclusion, scrutiny of the work of the Community Safety Partnership and the regeneration of communities and physical regeneration of the area.
Im am sure many will jump on this post with the usual comments in defense of this un desirable relationship which to the average person appears to be a serious clash of interests but its something you simply cannot ignore, would any view that cllr mackinlay hold whilst acting as a magistrate be prejudicial? We will wait to find that on out!
Well after a long pause we are back! I had been rather hoping that when i returned the whole isle of grain and the teletubby type ‘toys r us’ siren had been replaced, however this is not the case. Instead we come back to yet more news and more problems, with the CCTV car in the dock and Armed Forces Day its all getting a bit slap dash.
We will be preparing our article about Jack Hopes struggle with Grain LNG and also taking a look into Medway Councils ignorance regarding the Armed Forces covenant.
Its an outrage! Simple. Elected councillors simply ‘ignoring’ pleads for help. For our regular readers you will know that we have been following the disgusting treatment of a medway resident and former soldier who is now under the care of the Medway Mental Health team. The way he and his family have been treated is an outright disgrace an not to mention the PACE breaches which have taken place during the process, last week we caught up with the veterans carer and asked if there had been any updates, we were disgusted to hear that the veterans carer had written to Cllr Alan Jarrett on two occasions and had NOT even received a response! We have agreed with the veterans carer that we will publish the letter whilst removing any details that could identify the carer or the veteran.
I write on behalf of Mr **^* ,***, rochester, kent *** ***. My name is ***** ******* i am the registered carer for ****.
**** is facing possible prosecution for what medway council call dishonesty regarding benefits. **** on the advice of the medway CAB completed a housing benefit application and claimed a backdate. There has been a great deal of misinformation and ill advice regarding this matter which seems to have become way out of hand.
I understand that you might not be aware of Mr ****** position so i will take the liberty of informing you to help you to understand the situation better. ***^ is currently under the care of the mental health team and also under the care if combat stress a charity to help suffering soldiers. ***** is diagnosed with a number of illnesses which have had a significant negative impact on his health. ***** currently suffers from the following:
Combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
It is important to note also that during this period of the investigation his mental stability has become so much worse so much so that he is now not allowed to take part in group therapy because he is volatile and distressed. This impact and choice to prosecute Mr ***** has undone all of the hard work that the mental health team and therapy have done, not to mention the problems this has now caused at home with the children. He has had an increase in medication and a decline in health, myself our children and his parents are desperately worried for **** as he has recently tried to seriously harm himself and end his life. **** is still to date unsure if how or why he is going to be prosecuted, he made it very clear that he couldn’t pay the ADPEN because the officer stated it would have to be pain in full on the day, +*** only income is his disability benefit. **** does not claim the ESA as he is entitled. I appeal to you as head of finance to reconsider the prosecution of ***** and hope that i can appeal to your respectable honorable side for the sake of a loved son, respectable Armed Forces Veteran and father to 3 children. We are a decent honorable family who put a great deal into our community here in medway, i am a ***** ****** and fundraiser and our children raise money for our church, an experience such as this has thrown our house hold into chaos in which myself and our children want there dad back to continue with our lives.
Cllr Jarrett i ask you as an honorable man to halt these proceedings and help us find another way to deal with this before my children and i lose ***^
This letter was sent to Cllr Jarrett on May 24th 2012 and as yet we are informed that the councillor has still failed to even acknowledge receipt of the letter/email. We cannot help but think that this is a disgusting disregard towards a young family in Medway. I invite comments to this article but please be mindful that this is a letter asking for help and a young family are involved.
Cllr Jarrett your blatant dismissal of the plea for help has only demonstrated your need to be in power and NOT to serve your constituents. We invite you publicly to inform us of the reasons you have neglected your responsibility.
Calvo turpuis est nihil comato
For those of you who understand john wards humour im sure his ‘Tit for Tat’ approach to highlighting blogs could do with some real latin.
We would rather not take part in a media based mud slinging match with the old tory ‘dads army’ but we feel we should acknowledge john wards comments, just to be polite.
Our regular readers can be sure that we will now get back to our desks and present some worthwhile arguments.
We would like to thank john for the ‘traffic’ he has sent our way.
Please enjoy john.
Having the role i have does have many perks, one of which allows me ( and one other here) to mingle with the almighty ones, those being medway Cllrs, over the years we have joined them in celebrating, scrutinising and watching them flap over issues they were desperate not to let out into the public domain. So when things go wrong for cllrs we can pre-empt exactly what will happen, nine times out of ten we have been right!
Back in may this year a few members of our investigation team attended the North Kent Divisional Commanders Awards Ceremony it had been a great night actually especially as we were able to iron out some work issues and also catch up with some old friends such as john burden from Gravesham Borough Council, someone we hold in great esteem. Also in attendance was tracey crouch and Cllr Mike O’Brian, he made it clear during a speech how proud he was of our police officers or [ police offices] as he put it. Interestingly he also referred to the Medway Police and Kent Police separately! Thus inviting questions like;
Do medway have a separate police force?
Of course we know they do not but we thought we would raise it anyway. Cllr Mile O’Brian has always been one to self gratify, looking at Mikes blog you’ll see if there is an opportunity to slip a portrait picture of himself in then he will!
We arent actually to worried about mikes pictures as at least he looks respectable, our concerns lay with the Grain LNG emergency siren that he so proudly took charge of – only to fail quite expectedly!
We love this picture mike! Its one of those “epic failure moments”.
Of course the special ” we are not legally obliged but we will anyway” approach to erecting this siren was supposed to been seen by the residents as a ” good will ” type gesture from the council, Cllr mike o’brian wanting to make it clear that this is going the extra mile for the residents of grain. Anyone would have thought Cllr O’Brian was counting down to the olympics by the way he publicly announced the opening of the new amazing siren! Unfortunately for mike he forgot to ‘wind it up’ or ‘ put in some batteries’ or what ever you do to make it work!! Upon test day the siren was tested, to our horror it couldnt even be heard in the local school!!!
So for the epic failure Cllr O’Brian we would like to thank you again for your shockingly bad attempt at public safety and congratulate you on making our job easier by publicly making yourself look silly.
Lets hope with all the minds crammed into one room at Gun Wharf that they one day manage to work out a way of purchasing an emergency siren which actually works!!
“He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.”
Michel de Montaigne
John ward blog ;serial name dropper, political
blagger blogger and waybaloo enthusiast. Please note we would like to say publicly that these comments are aimed at the blog as we cannot say without doubt that the person sharing the above name is actually the author of the blog.
For those of you who really care [ not that many of you do ] john ward blog has shown its hand, keen to advise but not so keen to clearly be proven wrong. Invited to view evidence but quick to decline. We came into this with a ‘tabula rasa’ but it has fast changed due to the shocking amount of deceptive and obstructive techniques in place.
The john ward blog offers a non Sensus communis approach but instead more a De Facto version of policy understanding. The interesting thing about the john ward blog is the ‘claims’ that he and his army of followers including the old boys network know who we are, issuing limp statements and unsupported claims has simply enforced our belief they are no closer than the day we started! If john ward blog and the medway council youth army really new who we were then gun wharf would be in ‘lock down’ by the morning. It would make john blush if he realised he has spoken to at least 2 of our team members in the last 30 days!. Maybe John ward blogs friends in high places should consider how close he is to those who really know where medway council are going. Again john wards blog claims have made him/it laughable.
It could be another 15th march for the self confessed god like blogger who famously blogged;
“I think there is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation of all those who have a second, (or third, or whatever) child while living off state handouts.”
And yes those comments did lead to his resignation!!
I know john has not had a passport since 1982 – maybe now is the time he headed ‘down under’ wink wink john.
It is important for readers to know that our work is pro bono and we encourage you to continue making up your own mind with regard to the information that we publish.
Ignore the childish arrogant political blogging and remember;
homo homini lupus
We have been viewing a document recently, this document is from the Audit Sub Committee regarding benefit overpayments. Now before i start i want you to note something;
There have been current local authority members and past members who have jumped on this quick time, they have tried to tell us that we simply do not understand what the document is saying, however i think it is important at this point not to forget a vital point, which ever way you may read this document it still clearly states 2 very disturbing points, in black and white!
You can view the document for yourself HERE
Back to document, we accept that there may be points that we simply do not understand in this document and we would not argue the point however within this document medway council have identified the following;
Ovepayment recovery, in terms of the cost to the council, is not represented solely by the cash collected from claimants or landlords. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also allows categories of overpayment for subsidy purposes at varying degrees from 0% to 100% e.g. overpayments as a result of claimant error are reimbursed at 40% in addition to any claimant recovery. It is therefore theoretically possible to make a ‘profit’ from an overpayment.
I would like to draw your attention to the last part of that statement;
” it is therefore theoretically possible to make a ‘profit’ from an overpayment”
personally i find it disturbing that medway council council even identify that.
Another point raised within this document clearly states;
Why we need a policy
It is essential for Medway Council to demonstrate that it carries out administration and recovery of Housing Benefit overpayments efficiently and effectively.
By doing so the Council:-
• reduces losses to Public Funds;
• provides revenue for the Council;
• helps reduce the loss from overpayments;
• deters fraud and error;
• demonstrates the Council’s commitment to accuracy and provision of a quality
service to its customers as outlined in its Benefits Statement of Intent.
Again we see that medway council have clearly stated;
” provides revenue for the council”
Now we can say that yes this could be ambiguous however it does give rise to questions like;
1. If the council were to overpay benefits on a regular basis would this or could this be seen as a profitable income during these difficult times?
I am so outraged that im almost speechless, medway council can claim an overpayment is the claimants fault, overpay the benefit, receive a 40% subsidy and then keep all overpayment recovered! I think this is a total outrage and must be challenged!!
In times where families are bending over backwards to keep roofs above the heads of their families we find the local authorities can still profit from our loss.
We will be looking more indepth into this situation and meanwhile welcome views of those affiliated with this document.
We received information regarding some more housing benefit overpayments and with regard to the lack of professionalism medway council representatives display. Medway council are and always have been known to refer residents to their website to gain understanding of the benefits process and application, they have also [in court] made clear that if a resident requires advice they can simply refer again to the website. This is of course a ludicrous suggestion now that we know that the disclaimer on the website clearly states that medway council accept no responsibility for the information held within the website. An advice page which informs you that if you do not follow their procedures you could end up prosecuted in court and on the other hand medway council cannot even assure you that what they are telling you is correct!!!!!!
We look at a recent case of benefit overpayment, before we go into detail i want to make it clear that there are more families who are in employment claiming Housing benefit than their are those unemployed.
Right before i get on my soap box, These overpayments are becoming rather popular with medway council and they are becoming more ridiculous by the day. We have just been viewing a letter sent by medway council to a resident explaining that SHE is responsible for repaying the overpayment HOWEVER if you were to look on the rear of the benefit overpayment notification it quite clearly state’s;
“if payment is made to a landlord– the social security administration act 1997 imposes a duty on landlords to notify the council of any changes in circumstances, which may affect the claimants entitlement to benefit”
The strange thing about this is that it also states the follow;
“youare responsible for telling us about a change in circumstances”!
Yes, yes silly i know but what did you really expect, but there is a point to this!
The point being if you did go to the medway council website to get advice regarding a change in circumstances they make absolutely no reference to the comment above [also shown in the photo below].
[please click on picture to enlarge]
seems to us that medway council are relying on the fact that you will not refer to the conditions on the back of the notices.