RB: Are bailiffs busier in the recession? JW: The truth is that bailiffs are always busy. People will always not pay certain things for certain reasons. Look at parking fines, for example. Most debtors don’t pay not because they can’t afford to but because they don’t believe that they should have to. It’s like someone saying “why should I have to pay to park outside of my own house?” We have always preferred the careless debtor vs. the poor one. Poor debtors won’t be affected by bailiffs much. If you really have nothing, then there is very little a bailiff can do. Irresponsible debtors reduce in a recession as risk-taking reduces. I myself have parked somewhere, had no change and thought, “I will only be 20 minutes, I’ll take the risk”. Now I don’t because now I recognise that a £100 ticket is a waste of money and I don’t have cash to burn. RB: Why are you now working with enforcement agencies?JW: Current law dates back over 100 years ago and has not been updated due to the government’s lack of attention to this subject. The laws don’t reflect a modern work method so that the only way a bailiff can make money is by applying fees to the debtor for certain action taken. This means that a bailiff has to attend a debtor’s address to add any fees. There is legislation that allows you to add a tiny fee of, say £11.20, to the case for uploading it onto your computer system, performing a DVLA enquiry, data cleaning the address and sending a letter. It’s funny how the government thinks that £11.20 is a sufficient fee – yet it charges me hundreds of pounds for a late tax return. But regardless of how difficult central government make it for the bailiffs, local government want more customer service, friendlier processes and less fees charged to the debtor. That’s why JBW has invested in a 40-seated contact centre, tracing systems, automated payment lines, online payment options, bank giro credit slips, language translation services, text info services for the hard of hearing and customer walk-in centres. The bailiffs’ job is to now act as negotiator between client and debtor. Collect the money without any complaint, collect the money without making any charges, collect the money over long periods of time. The problem is no-one is paying for this. The client will not pay the bailiff, they don’t want us to charge the debtor and central government don’t want to change the legislation to encourage this type of collection. Our margins are reducing dramatically. Meanwhile, the recession has reduced the number of well-off City Boy debtors out there and left us with poor people, who really could never afford to pay. RB: So what’s JBW doing to improve the current legislation?JW: Lobby, lobby, lobby. JBW – and the industry as a whole – want change. We want to see better legislation that includes a transparent fee schedule, a formal training qualification and regulation. We want better legislation to be introduced so that the cowboy companies that still exist (although not as many as three years ago) have to close. We want government to clean up the industry up to allow businesses like ours to flourish, make profits and grow in a transparent, legal and ethical way. We will keep chewing the government’s ear until it finally listens. Jamie Waller founded £7m-turnover JBW Group in 2004. Related articles:Five ways to survive tax investigation
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