An individual or company seeking to recover overdue monies may decide 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.
In the pursuit of a healthy cash flow, businesses naturally want to recover the sums due to them in a timely fashion and at the lowest possible cost. However, is this still possible bearing in mind the current 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:
a) open a new file
b) a letter (before claim) is sent to the debtor; and
c) if no response is 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 where necessary.
Know your debtor
In the current economic climate, debtors are less able to pay and changes to the court system are causing delays with the claims procedure.
Every debt recovery seminar or course for Debt Recovery specialists will start with the phrase ‘manage your client’s expectations’. This is of paramount importance as we do not wish to create the impression that every claim issued will result in the successful recovery of monies owed. Our specialist experience enables us to readily identify debt which has the possibility of no return and provide suitable advice accordingly.
To live up to our clients’ high expectations we 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?
The first and maybe now the most important step is to prepare a clear, concise, informative letter before issuing a claim setting out 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 in providing 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, they do not appear to have any further information. For us this is frustrating, however, we 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 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.
The Ministry of Justice Court Statistics show that for the first quarter of 2012 10% fewer cases were issued than in the first quarter of 2011. This continues the downward trend from the peak of cases issued 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 when compared to the first quarter of 2008.
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 work closely with them in order to deliver an excellent service while managing expectation.
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, with fewer claims being issued, a more effective letter to the debtor before claim, combined with the right level of experience in negotiations, may ensure that a claim is now only issued as a last resort.