Enforcement agents should not be confused with energy suppliers that force-fit prepayment meters.

Enforcement agents should not be confused with energy suppliers that force-fit prepayment meters.

Responding to concerns about the force-fitting of prepayment meters, Russell Hamblin-Boone explained:

A certificated enforcement agent is not required to force fit a meter and our members do not carry out this activity.

CIVEA members activities are strictly controlled by government clients and all enforcement agents undergo rigorous checks before being certificated by a District Judge, which must be renewed every two years. Energy suppliers operate under nearly seventy year old legislation, the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 which does not require a certificated enforcement agent (bailiff) when forcing entry into a domestic premises to install a prepaid meter. Consequently, the those undertaking this work are outside of the remit of the Ministry of Justice, CIVEA and Enforcement Conduct Board and the legislation that governs certificated enforcement agents.

Local authorities and other public bodies instruct certificated enforcement agents to recover unpaid council tax, business rates, parking fines, magistrates’ court fines, employment tribunal awards, child support payments, B2B and commercial rent arrears using powers awarded under Schedule 12 of the Tribunals, Courts & Enforcement Act 2007. We are not debt collectors and only undertake visits to premises after a local authority or public body has failed to recover funds and takes an individual to court under the Taking Control of Goods regulations 2013.

Our members cannot take control of goods on premises when a lone vulnerable person is present, and there are strict rules on entry to premises. The agent will need a locksmith and sometimes a police officer in attendance. Often an agent’s visit is the first opportunity to identify someone who is vulnerable. Enforcement Agents are trained and instructed to identify safeguarding or vulnerability needs and refer these cases to specialist welfare teams immediately and enforcement action is suspended.

CIVEA has alerting its members to the risks of media misreporting of the legal activities of civil enforcement agents. We are concerned that conflating this issue is irresponsible and potentially dangerous, because it presents a threat to agents in the field where people may confuse what they do and subject our staff to abuse and even assault.

6th February 2023

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