MPs right to urge action on “worst in class” government debt collection, says Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice welcomes the recommendations made by the Treasury Select Committee in their Household finances: income, savings and debt report, released today.
In response to the report, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
"The spotlight is once again being shone on the financial pressures households are facing. While mounting consumer credit understandably grabs headlines, there is a hidden debt problem in this country in the form of arrears on our household bills.
"MPs are right to acknowledge that government agencies and local authorities are worst in class for debt collection - when they should be leading by example. Reforms in 2014 were introduced to protect people from unfair practices, with a particular focus on how bailiffs collect debt.
"It is clear these changes have failed. Citizens Advice has seen a more than 25% rise in bailiff problems since 2014, and helped 42,000 people with 98,000 issues last year.
"We need an independent regulator to protect consumers from these unfair practices. The government must now show it's taking the issue seriously, and rein in a sector that has been out of control for far too long."
- In 2017-18, debt problems related to household bill and government debts made up 47% of all the debt problems Citizens Advice helped people with. That compares to 24% which were related to consumer credit debt problems.
- Our clients with household bill arrears tend to be in a more precarious financial position than those with consumer credit debts:
- 37% more likely not to be in full time employment
- 20% more likely to live in social or housing association housing
- 17% more likely to be a single parent
- Last year, Citizens Advice helped 42,000 people with 98,000 separate issues with bailiffs - on average each having at least two problems.
- The most commonly encountered problem was bailiffs refusing payment for the sum of money owed, with 17,000 issues in the last year.
- Citizens Advice has seen a 74% increase in people who have a difficulty complaining to bailiff firms since 2014/15.
- Next month, Citizens Advice will publish research that reveals the extent of household bill arrears in the UK.
Notes to editors
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
- Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.