Capita Charges £235 for Sellotape

by ukcivilservant

Senior civil servants seldom experience the intimidation that debt collectors – often acting on behalf of public authorities – inflict on those of limited means.  Sometimes, however, we witness direct the dubious tactics of companies such as Capita.  Here is my story …

One early evening last July, my wife heard someone climb the steps to our front door and very shortly afterwards leave again.  She assumed that a leaflet had been put through our letter box.  No-one knocked on the door or rang our doorbell.  I returned home at around the same time and saw someone leaving our premises and driving away.  I then found a “Collection Notice” sellotaped to our front door.  A redacted copy is below, from which it appeared that the notice was aimed at a nearby neighbour.

equita notice redacted

I rang the “collection agent” straight away, who assured me that he had not delivered the notice himself but that Equita employed “correspondence agents” (or a similar description) who must have made a mistake in this case.  He asked me to send him the notice by email, which I did.  I subsequently became concerned that it:

  • had not been fully completed – e.g. with the name of the debtor and the amount owed,
  • contained a clear lie (i.e. that the agent had visited the property with a view to meeting the debtor), and
  • therefore wrongly included a £235 enforcement fee, which seemed deliberately intimidatory.

I never heard back from the agent, despite a reminder.  I accordingly wrote to Equita’s Chief Executive at his ‘correspondence address’ in central London as notified to Companies House.  No-one in Equita relied to that letter.

I subsequently realised that Equita is owned by Capita plc and that Equita’s main office is in Northampton.  I accordingly then wrote to the Chief Executive there and received an unsatisfactory reply from one of his staff.  After further, almost comical, to-ing and fro-ing, Equita finally admitted that “a colleague of [the collection agent] attended your house in error and delivered a sealed envelope addressed to the account holder”.  I wrote again, as follows, on 7 February:-

You will have appreciated, I am sure, that my main concern was that your agent tried to intimidate the debtor by charging a £235 enforcement fee when no-one – and especially not the agent concerned – had even knocked on (what they thought was) her door.

But you don’t address this issue in your letter, which leaves me in a difficult position.  The misdelivered letter has in effect told me that Equita has tried to extract £235 from my neighbour (….) when no such fee was due.  But you have not yet confirmed that the fee should not have been charged, nor told me that the fee was cancelled.

… I appreciate that the misdelivery was a simple error which does not deserve a strong reaction.  I suggest, therefore, that you should please confirm that the fee should not have been charged, and that this has been made clear to your agents.  If you will kindly do this, I think we can let the matter rest there

I have heard nothing since, despite sending a reminder.  So it seems pretty clear that Capita/Equita still believe that merely sellotaping a notice to a door entitles them to a £235 fee.

I know that the MoJ are currently reviewing the Enforcement Agent legislation, and I have submitted evidence.  In the meantime, I can only hope that local authorities and other Capita customers are getting wise to what is being done to debtors in their name

 

Martin Stanley

Editor – Understanding the Civil Service  &  Understanding Regulation

 

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