17 April 2014

TASK jump the new charges gun

Every time that Mr Mustard looks at a PCN case which has got as far as the bailiff, he has been unhappy, because it is wrong in some way. Each time, Mr Mustard finds himself making a complaint to Barnet Council. Let us look at the "Notice" above.

This Notice was sent to a lady who has already proved, by production of a letter from the DVLA, that she was not the owner of the vehicle on the day in question as she had sold it prior to the PCN being issued. NSL, acting for the council, and Task (part of NSL) seem to be suffering from self profiting selective blindness. Both of them will have done a check of who the vehicle is registered to, near the start and at the end of the process.

This Notice should have been issued under the old rules as enforcement started prior to 6 April 14 but it isn't acceptable under those. It is simply a bullying letter of the worst kind but as it claims the fee under the new regime, Mr Mustard will judge it on that basis.

Firstly it is an illegal demand for money with menaces against a party who is not liable to pay.

There is no breakdown of the amount due. Mr Mustard knows that this is for a £110 PCN increased by 50% (+£55) and then by £7 to register at the Traffic Enforcement Centre, attached to Northampton County Court. Thus £172 is due for the PCN. The new rules (Statutory Instrument no. 1 of 2014 - Taking Control of Goods) allows for a fixed fee of £75 for debts under £1,500. That is how we reach £247 but the lady in the street isn't going to know that.

So far we have an excessive fee and a failure to provide a breakdown of fees.

The first communication from a bailiff (now called an Enforcement Agent) should be called a Notice of Enforcement and not a Notice of Intended removal. This is the start of the Compliance Stage.

It should give 7 clear days notice that a visit will take place. This letter does not allow the customary 2 days for postal service.

It does not explain the additional fees and expenses that may be applied if payment is not made. Some exact details are required.

The letter says goods are now at risk. They are not. They are not at risk until 7 clear days after the first Notice.

How to pay should include opening hours and days.

The Notice refers to previous notices and visits. If that were the case this is not the Notice that would be sent and we should have moved onto the Enforcement Stage for which, for a PCN, the fee is £235. These type of missives have often been sent when there have been no previous visits or notices.

Mr Mustard's final point is about the awful grammar. The sentence starting "Despite previous visits" does not make sense. The sentence which starts "To avoid this" contains the phrase "by the return" - by the return of what exactly? Letters and Notices of this standard do not put Barnet Council in a good light.

A council has a duty of care in respect of the way a bailiff goes about its business on behalf of the council as creditor. It should not sensibly delegate that oversight to a contractor, like NSL, especially when they are in the same group of companies as the bailiff concerned, as in this case.

Mr Mustard will keep on complaining about bailiffs until the message gets through and files of bailiffs are spot checked and until the use of bailiffs from the same group of companies is stopped as there is a clear conflict of interest.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update: 17 April 2014

This has now been looked at by council management, possibly at the request of a councillor, and the PCN has been cancelled.

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