If you are an individual facing legal proceedings to recover a debt, you might be interested in new procedures being introduced this month. These are intended to reduce the number of debt claims ending up in court.
From 1st October 2017, the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims (‘the Protocol’) comes into force. The Protocol aims
-encourage early engagement and communication between the parties,
-settle claims without recourse to the Court, including setting repayment plans and alternative methods of resolving the dispute,
-encourage parties to act in a reasonable and proportionate manner, and
-support efficient management of proceedings that cannot be avoided.
The Protocol will apply to a Creditor (any business – including sole traders and public bodies) claiming payment of a debt from a Debtor (an individual – including a sole trader). However, it explicitly excludes business-to-business debts. The Protocol will therefore apply to individual Debtors who have failed to keep up with credit card repayments for example.
How will it work? Firstly the Creditor has to send a detailed Letter of Claim to the Debtor containing detailed information regarding the debt which is defined in the protocol. Documents to be attached to the Letter of Claim include, a Statement of Account showing interest and administrative charges, an Information Sheet, a Financial Statement Form and a Reply Form.
The Creditor must give the Debtor thirty days to reply before issuing court procedures. The Debtor is encouraged to respond using the Reply Form provided with the Letter of Claim. Again the Protocol sets out in detail how the Debtor should complete the Reply Form and the information to be provided. The Debtor is required to return the Reply Form (including a Financial Statement where applicable) within thirty days.
If you have access to the Internet you can find the Protocol at http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/pdf/protocols/pre-action-protocol-for-debt-claims.pdf?mc_cid=ff17d39056&mc_eid=0d076eaf4f.
If you don’t have Internet Access (or are daunted by the paperwork) and still feel that the Protocol might apply to your case, you can get help and guidance from Citizens Advice. If you need help with the Protocol or information and advice on Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare you can make contact by: