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Can bailiffs come for catalogue debt?

A man in suit walking up a driveway.

Buying clothing, household items and gifts using ‘buy now, pay later’ catalogues is extremely popular in the UK. Unfortunately, like other types of consumer credit, catalogue shopping comes with a risk. If you’re spending frequently exceeds what you can afford to repay, debts can soon build up and become unmanageable.

If you fall behind on catalogue repayments, your creditors have several options to pursue you for what you owe, including court action. But can bailiffs come for catalogue debt? The answer is yes – however, your creditors must follow a lengthy legal procedure first. Read on to learn how the process works, what powers bailiffs have to recover catalogue debt, and how you can avoid enforcement action.

What happens if you don't repay catalogue debt?

Catalogue debt refers to any money owed to companies that allow you to order and pay for goods in instalments over an agreed period. This means you can split the cost of large purchases over several pay periods without having to save up first.

This type of unsecured borrowing is legally binding. If you willingly entered into the credit agreement, you will be held responsible for making the scheduled repayments on time. If you miss payments or default entirely on your catalogue debt, you could face consequences. For example:

Your credit rating could be damaged, making it harder to access finance in future. Missed payments remain on your credit file for 6 years.

Your debt may snowball due to added interest and late payment fees, rapidly increasing the amount owed.

Your account may be passed to third party debt collectors who will attempt to recover the debt through letters, calls, texts, and visits.

Ultimately, the creditor can take legal action to recover what you owe. This can include taking you to court and getting a CCJ issued against you.

If you still don’t pay, the creditor can apply for a Charging Order (which secures the debt against your home), an Attachment of Earnings order (which deducts the debt from your wages), or bailiff action.

It’s important to note that debt collectors are not the same thing as bailiffs. Debt collectors can only ask you to pay, whereas bailiffs have legal powers to take items from your property which may be sold to recover the debt.

Can creditors send bailiffs for catalogue debts?

Some bailiffs, also called enforcement agents, act on a warrant issued by the County Court usually for the collection of debts such as council tax, parking fines, court fines and CCJs. If a CCJ has been issued in respect of your catalogue debt and you fail to pay it the catalogue company can ask the court to enforce the debt with bailiffs. This usually involves a multi-step legal process:

01. Default notice

The catalogue company must first send you a default notice (or final demand) containing details of how much you owe, the payments you have missed, and the deadline for payment. They must give you at least 2 weeks to pay from the date of the notice.

02. Letter of claim

If you don’t pay by the deadline, and the creditor wishes to start legal action, they must send you a letter of claim informing you of their intent to take you to court. You’ll then have 30 days to contact the creditor and arrange to start repaying your catalogue debts.

If you can’t come to an agreement within that time, you’ll receive a claim pack from the court. You can respond to the court and ask for time to prepare a defence if you don’t think you owe the debt.

03. County court judgement

The court will consider the catalogue company’s claim and your defence. They may conduct a hearing or may come to a decision without one.

If the court decides that you owe the catalogue debt, you’ll receive a county court judgement (CCJ) detailing how and when you must pay. You may be ordered to pay in full or in instalments.

Unless you repay the debt in full within a month, the CCJ will stay on your credit file for 6 years. This can severely impact your credit score and your ability to borrow money in future.

04. Warrant of Control

If you fail to meet the terms of the CCJ, your creditor can apply to the county court for a Warrant of Control. This grants permission for a bailiff to visit you and attempt to recover the catalogue debt.

You will then receive a notice of enforcement explaining that a bailiff will come to your home if you do not pay (or make an agreement to pay) within 7 days. It will also provide details of how you can contact them to arrange payment.

What powers do bailiffs have when collecting catalogue debts?

Following a Warrant of Control being issued, a bailiff can come to your home to try and collect the catalogue debt you owe.

Bailiffs are legally allowed to:

  • Visit you on any day of the week, between 6am and 9pm.
  • Enter your home through an unlocked door.
  • Take items from your property to be sold at auction or make a list of items to be collected at a later date if you don’t pay.
  • Look through your windows and make a list of any goods that they see inside.
  • Clamp or remove your vehicle unless it’s parked inside a locked garage.

They cannot:

  • Push past you to enter your home, put their foot in the door to stop you closing it, or force entry through a locked door (unless they are collecting tax debts or criminal fines).
  • Climb in through a window, even if it’s unlocked.
  • Take your pets, essential items (such as your oven), equipment that you need for work or study (up to the value of £1,350), or items that do not belong to you.
  • Take your vehicle if it’s a Motability vehicle or has a Blue Badge.

You do not have to speak to the bailiff or let them in. But if you don’t, they will come back, and they may add fees to your debt.

If you agree to a repayment plan and sign a controlled goods agreement, the bailiff can return to collect your belongings if you break the terms. If this happens, they are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to enter and seize the goods.

How to deal with catalogue debt and avoid the bailiffs

To avoid a visit from the bailiffs for your unpaid catalogue debt, contact your creditors as soon as possible. Explain your financial situation and propose a realistic repayment plan. Usually, if you show willingness to repay your debts – even if you can only afford a small amount each month – your creditors won’t pursue legal action.

If you’re juggling debts across multiple credit cards, loans, catalogues or other borrowing, a debt management plan (DMP) could provide a solution. This is an informal arrangement whereby you make one affordable monthly payment to a DMP provider, who splits it between your creditors. The provider will liaise with your creditors on your behalf and may be able to negotiate reduced interest rates and fees.

DMPs are only suitable for non-priority debts like catalogue borrowing and may not be feasible if you can’t make regular repayments. Seek professional debt advice to determine if a DMP is right for you.

Contact DFH Financial Solutions today

Dealing with bailiffs can be stressful, so it’s important to take control of your catalogue debt as soon as possible. If you’re struggling with multiple debts, contact DFH Financial Solutions today for expert advice.

We’ll assess your financial circumstances and offer tailored guidance on the best path forward. If we feel that a debt management plan could benefit you, we’ll help match you with an affordable plan tailored to your needs.

Apply online today for more information. Our experienced team will happily discuss your situation and offer their expert advice.

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