Happy New Year – what’s coming up for the CCUA in 2014…

 

May I somewhat belatedly wish all CCUA members a Happy New Year! I don’t know where the time has gone since our offices reopened after the Christmas break but I’m sure we are all now back in the swing of things ready to continue lobbying for improvements in the court service.

Court Fee Consultation

The Consultation closed on 21 January 2014 after being rushed through in seven weeks which included the Christmas and New Year period.

Rob Thompson, Chair of the CCUA Lobbying Committee, drafted a clear and concise summary of the situation and I hope everyone managed to get a chance to read it . Should the fees be increased as proposed, past experience would seem to indicate that this will result in a reduction in the issue of money claims. As Rob points out, there was a decrease in the issue of Warrants of Execution when the fee doubled, showing the cost of action can be prohibitive.

Also, could the timing of the consultation be worse? As users of the court service, I am sure most of us are dissatisfied and in some cases, extremely frustrated with the inadequate service provided not only by CCMCC but by the court service as a whole. We can only hope the Ministry of Justice give careful consideration to the CCUA’s response on behalf of the members.

Regional meetings February….

South West Region – next meeting will take place on 5 February at the offices of Burges Salmon, Bristol at 10.30am for 11am start.

Greater London/South East Region – next meeting will take place on 20 February 2014 at BDO offices in Baker Street, London, at 10.30am for 11am start. The guest speaker is Alan Smith, Director – Corporate Governance, High Court Enforcement Group. His presentation will be on ‘The future regulations for execution against goods’ which will come into force as part of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 Order 2013 in April 2014.

Diary dates March

6 March 2014 – Northern Region meeting to be held at CCMCC (sponsored by Shoosmiths)

Simon Hardy, Chair of the Northern Region, says “The focus of the meeting will be the CCMCC and will include a tour of the operation and an opportunity for questions and answers.  Good attendance at this meeting would be much appreciated as HMCTS/CCMCC are genuinely keen to work with us and do welcome feedback”.

What a great opportunity to see inside the CCMCC and identify their main problem areas. Such a visit may help us, to help them, improve the service provided and gain a better understanding of their systems and procedures.

14 March 2014 – House of Lords dinner.

Advertisements

News from the CCUA Conference

Conference

As always the CCUA conference was a great success and this was followed by a hugely enjoyable gala dinner.  Although I was unfortunately unable to attend I managed to keep up to date with the events via  Twitter which proved very successful. I particularly enjoyed the photos and thought the celebratory cupcakes looked delicious!

Congratulations And Thanks

I am sure you will join with me in congratulating Central Region member, Jeremy Chaplin as he takes up his post as Chairman of the CCUA and Amir Ali, as he continues in his role as Vice-Chair. With changes coming into force next year with the new PCOL  and MCOL systems and continued issues with the court service, it will be a busy year for all concerned and ‘as many hands make light work’ if we all pull together we can make the work load a little lighter for all concerned.

A huge thank you must go to Brian Havercroft for all the hard work and dedication he brought to the role of Chair and although he will no doubt be kept busy, he may be able to take it a bit easier.

Another thank you must go to Anthony Sharp as he steps down from role as conference Chair and congratulations to Lisa Keating as she takes on this role.

Regional meetings

Looking forward now to the regional meetings for November…

Greater London and South East Region – next meeting will be taking place at BDO offices in Baker Street, London on Thursday 21 November starting at 10.30am. David Philpott, Conduct Redress and Standards at The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has agreed to come and address the meeting.

South West Region – next meeting will be on Wednesday 27 November also starting at 10.30am and will take place at the Offices of Burgess Salmon in Bristol.

Diary dates for December

The Northern Region meeting – 5 December 2013

Central Region meeting – 10 December 2013.

 

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

Court Fees to Increase?

I returned to work after a short break to find the latest issue of ‘Court Focus’ on my desk. After grabbing a cup of coffee I sat down to have a read as a way of getting back into work mode!

Another great article by Brian Havercroft informs us that the Ministry of Justice is considering an increase in court fees.

It is hard to believe that the court would even consider an increase at a time when confidence in the service provided is at such a low. Although, as Brian has pointed out, we will have to wait for the results of the survey carried out by the Association and Lovetts LLP to confirm if members continue to be as dissatisfied with the service as they were last year.

The Ultimate aim…

It appears that an increase in the fees may dramatically reduce claims issued which may be what they are ultimately trying to achieve, however court proceedings are only ever issued as a last resort when all other means to obtain payment have failed.

Generally I find small firms are now reluctant to even consider issuing proceedings to recover sums due to them as they have to pay the court fee together with fixed costs with no guarantee of payment ever being received from the debtor.  Usually clients will ask for a more amicable approach to be taken in the first instance with claims only being issued against debtors who are withholding payment despite having the means to pay.

When we look at debt recovery success rates, I am sure we look at debts we have recovered to the satisfaction of our clients and not how many claims we have issued to court.

With the Association continuing to assist the Government to understand the debt recovery procedure maybe in time a user-friendly, cost effective system will be put in place.

Conference 2013

The annual conference will soon be upon us and this year the Association will be addressing ‘Civil Justice; is it still accessible in 2013?’ An interesting variety of speakers have been lined up and we will be provided with an update from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service in respect of ‘delivering services to the civil court users’.

The ‘Question Time’ session, chaired by Paul Lewis, should be most interesting and provide some lively debate in the afternoon before Gala Dinner and Champagne Reception.

All of this, plus the opportunity to gain 7 CPD points, makes this a great opportunity to meet new members of the Association and catch up with familiar faces.

Author: Christine Power FCILEx – specialising in Debt Recovery at Lightfoots LLP

Update on Directive 2011/7/EU – Combating Late Payment in Commercial Transactions

The Directive

The Directive has been designed ‘to combat the culture of late payments in commercial transactions..’, however, it also indicates that companies should undertake their own checks to ensure customers are in a position to make payment and furthermore, protect themselves by preparing accurate and timely invoices.

The Consultation Process

The Department for Business, innovation and Skills (BIS) prepared and distributed a consultation which asked for views on four main areas. This resulted in 80 responses from individuals, businesses and their representatives which BIS advise was ‘satisfactory’ number for a consultation of this type.

Outcome

The Government response to the consultation has been published by BIS with the results as follows:

  • Public sector payment terms will remain at the current 30 day payment period.
  • The directive will be implemented by amending the existing Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 rather than repealing and replacing it.
  • The three tiered approach to compensation on debts will remain. (£40, £70 or £100 can be claimed dependant on the size of the debt).
  • Any contract concluded before 16 March 2013 will be not be subject to the Directive.

Additional Information

Further questions were posed on the consultation to assess the impact of late payment and in particular where this may impact on the survival of a business. It appears from the responses received indicate that reduced cash flow leads to a lack of investment and in turn, results in increased borrowing.

Credit agencies reported that many small businesses were not aware of the Late Payment Interest Act and therefore were not claiming this. Once they became aware of the provisions of the act they started to use it.

Views from small businesses indicated that they are spending time chasing debts which could lead to a loss of profit as this is time that could be spent generating business.

Time for Change!

The changes will come into effect on 16 March 2013, but please note they will only affect contracts concluded after this date.

Written by Christine Power – Chartered Legal Executive

A review of debt recovery procedure in light of changes in the economic climate and the court system

In the past…

A responsible individual or company seeking to recover overdue monies, would no doubt, be minded to instruct a local firm of solicitors with a good Debt Recovery reputation. As we will see below, there is no reason for this to have changed.

Clients naturally want to recover the sums due to them in a timely fashion and if possible, with as little outlay as possible. However is this still possible bearing in mind the economic climate and the change to the way claims are issued?

In the past once a debt recovery instruction was received, the procedure would be;

  • input instruction on case management system
  • letter before claim sent to debtor
  • if no response received, issue court proceedings

The claim form would be drafted and sent to the local court and if a last minute payment was made by the debtor later that day or the following morning, a quick call to the court would usually stop the claim being issued. If proceedings were issued, the Defendant may make contact to discuss the matter further or if no contact was made, judgment would be entered in default.

A suitable enforcement option would then be recommended and put into action and sometimes multiple enforcement methods would be used over time, if necessary.

Know your debtor

In the currently economic climate, debtors are less able to pay and on top of this, changes to the court system are causing delays with the claims procedure. Every debt recovery seminar or course will start with the phrase “manage your client’s expectations”. This is of paramount importance as we do not wish it to appear as though they are spending good money after bad with the possibility of no return.

To live up to our clients high expectations we must ensure we have been provided with as much information as possible in respect of the debt. As well as the usual information such as name, address and debt amount, further information is valuable.

Such information can include; has contact been made with the debtor in respect of the sums due? Is the relationship a long standing one? Do they have any information in respect of the debtors circumstances?

Getting started

The first step and maybe now the most important one is to prepare a clear, concise, informative letter before claim setting out clearly the information required under the Civil Procedure Rules. Getting a response to this letter is crucial to ascertain the debtors attitude to the debt and any information gleaned will assist us provide the client with suggestions as how best to proceed.

The issue of court proceedings is no longer dealt with at the local court with all claims being sent to Salford Business Centre.  At time of writing, Salford Business Centre is causing delays with the issue of claims and judgment orders. Upon calling the centre for updates or clarification, the staff do not appear to have any further information.

For us this is frustrating, however we must ensure our clients are aware of these problems should we encounter them and trust they will bear with us. The Civil Court Users Association is actively seeking improvement in the service and things can only get better with their involvement and input.

One of the main causes of upset for a creditor is, having obtained judgment, finding their choice of enforcement has not been successful despite them having spent more money.  Although some clients continue with action, regardless of whether or not the sums will be recovered, most clients want (and often need) to have the debt paid.

Statistics

The Ministry of Justice, Court Statistics for the first quarter of 2012 show that 10% fewer cases were issued than in the first quarter of 2011. This continues the downward trend from the peak in 2006. Enforcement has also decreased by 10% on the same period the previous year and they note the number is half the applications received in the first quarter of 2008.

In conclusion

In conclusion it would appear that the old debt recovery adages are still true namely ‘manage your clients expectations’ and ‘know your debtor’. Expectations are high from our Clients, therefore we must work closely with them so they may help us to help them. Debt Recovery actions are always most successful when action is taken swiftly and we can pre-empt any potential problems.

Also, as the statistics show fewer claims are being issued, a more effective letter before claim and the right level of experience in negotiations may ensure that a claim is now really only issued as a last resort.

Author – Christine Power is a Chartered Legal Executive who specialises in debt recovery.

A Happy New Year

December was a quieter month on the Association front.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Northern region meeting at the beginning of the month but understand it went well and the members brought up some useful ideas to take forward in our regular discussions with the Ministry of Justice.

A week later I attended the CCBC User Group meeting in Northampton. Lisa Keating, the Chair, has been beavering away behind the scenes in discussions with officials over the case numbering and bulk data transfer projects. Certainly there has been much movement in the plans and Lisa and Andrew Aspell, the vice chair, should be congratulated on their efforts to date in ensuring the users receive the best service possible.

Just before Christmas the Ministry produced a paper on its digital strategy.  Under the theme of transforming our services they will start with four exemplar digital services for delivery by 2015 amongst which are civil claims (money & possession claims) and fee payment starting with employment tribunal fees). Also under this theme they intend to digitally redesign all other services, prioritising those handling over 100,000 transactions per year, to meet the new digital by default service standard.

The roadmap they have produced shows that in 2013 in civil claims the redesign starts with possession claims and then moves onto money claims. Fee payment with employment tribunal fees first phase by July 2013.

Transactions for 2013 will include credit card payment on money/possession claims, registration and authentication of money claims and secure bulk data. These last two have already been subject to meetings between users and officials bearing in mind new court numbering will need to be introduced at the beginning of 2014 and which the Association through the CCBC User Group has been monitoring and assisting.

The document shows the Association as one of the special interest group stakeholders and we will ensure close contact is maintained with HMCTS/MOJ to ensure the views and interests of members are well represented.

Next month sees meetings beginning again with officials so any issues you may have please let me know through the office on claires@ccua.org.uk

Another month and it seems that the Court system is beginning to creak.

Postings on the association linked in page show the frustration felt by users over the performance of the CCMCC at Salford.

We have been able to assist users but the feeling appears to be that the volume of business the CCMCC is receiving is overwhelming them and perhaps a more structured approach would have been better. The most recent issue appears to resolve around the customer services inbox being full and unable to take messages; if you are unable to make contact then this does not augur well.

We have also been approached over responses by the call centre at Loughborough and have provided them with details of issues there, again, the management are keen to resolve any problems but it only raises concern over the performance and the need for speedy action.

However as we have said before once the staff have settled in then we would hope the situation will quieten down but on current performance it does not look good and issuers need to begin to see improvements.

We held a very informative meeting with the Association of District Judges and full details are on the members’ site, we value the meetings we have with the association and I am grateful to their taking the time to talk to us.

Work is still going on in respect of case numbering changes and we had hoped to have arranged the members meetings to discuss the issues. However we have only just received a draft specification and once a further version has been received we will make the necessary arrangements.

Again the court user is being left behind in the process; we were advised over 15 months ago that changes would have to be made and yet 15 months later we are still awaiting full details and, in the meantime, time marches on.

Clearly all these issues will be aired at the Association’s conference on 16th October in Leicester when we will have officials from both the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service present and their presentations will be eagerly awaited.

The question time session I am certain will be particularly interesting (if not stimulating).

Please make sure the date is in your diary and for practitioners do not forget that CPD points are available; further information can be obtained from claireh@ccua.org.uk

Have a great August

Warm regards

Brian Havercroft – Chairman

For details of the benefits of becoming a CCUA member, please visit our website http://www.ccua.org.uk or our LinkedIn company page http://www.linkedin.com/company/civil-court-users-association.

Also, why not follow us on Twitter @theccua