Summary: Ms J complains about the actions of ‘Merton Enforcement Agents’, an enforcement service operated by the Council that acts for it and the London Borough of Sutton Council. The agents collected three debts from Ms J on behalf of the two Boroughs. Ms J complains:she could not contact an enforcement agent employed by the Council; the Council did not help when she asked for time to pay her debts; the agent discussed her debt improperly with her brother and unreasonably put pressure on him to pay her debt; the agent twice wrongly seized Ms J’s car which she says was essential to her employment as a ‘tool of the trade’; and failed to issue her the correct notices when it seized her car.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
To remedy the injustice caused, the Council has agreed to:
- apologise to Ms J accepting the findings of this investigation;
- provide a financial remedy to Ms J worth £1,050 to reflect her distress, time and trouble; this includes £550 to reflect the value of her car when sold at auction;
- provide a clear breakdown of a sum still owing for one of her debts and allow Ms J to put forward a payment plan to clear the debt;
- provide updates on the implementation of a service improvement plan; this will include details of its policy explaining how it will treat requests to its enforcement service from debtors requesting ‘time to pay’ at whatever stage they are made; also, its process and new policy for the use of body worn cameras; and
- provide an update on proposals to introduce a new policy for collection of multiple debts.
Ombudsman satisfied with Council's response: 26 Auguist 2020.