OPINION: Court bailiffs have hijacked Uganda's debt collection industry

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By Clever Nicholas

While debt collection intends to ensure that individuals and businesses fulfill their financial obligations, it is increasingly becoming evident that the debt collection industry in Uganda has been hijacked by court bailiffs who engage in debt collection without court order, which is illegal and improper.

Court bailiffs are individuals mandated to execute any order of court arising from civil proceedings, criminal proceedings, distress for rent proceedings, or any other matter sanctioned by a court or tribunal. They are specifically supposed to collect judgment debt.

It is a common practice, however, to find individuals claiming to be court bailiffs doing debt

collection services without following rules that govern court bailiffs. As long as one identifies himself as a court bailiff, he must follow the laid down rules as guided by the court.

Unfortunately, several businesses and financial institutions have been deceived by the court bailiff association, that it’s the association that regulates debt collectors/auctioneers in Uganda. This is not the case. Auctioneers are regulated by local authorities and not the chief registrar. Without a court judgment, court bailiffs have no place in the debt collection industry.

Court bailiffs have special powers of the court to recover the debt. In circumstances where a court bailiff engages in private work, he/she should first file it in court and then do the execution. In most cases, this is not done.

Debt collectors are those that work on behalf of creditors or debt collection agencies. They are also called doorstep collectors or field agents. Debt collectors do not carry special powers of the court. What they only do is ask you to make a payment arrangement for your debt. They can’t force you but only Ask.

The hijacking of the debt collection industry by court bailiffs has brought a lot of confusion in the debt collection industry in Uganda. The Court Bailiff Association postures itself that it has the mandate to recommend anyone in the debt collection industry.

To address the pervasive issues within Uganda's debt collection industry, comprehensive reforms are urgently required. Uganda needs legislation, a regulatory framework that must govern the debt collection industry in Uganda, ensuring they adhere to strict ethical guidelines. Independent oversight bodies should be established to monitor their actions and provide a mechanism for debtors to report abuses.

Additionally, initiatives such as debt counseling and financial education programs should be implemented to help debtors manage their financial obligations and prevent debt accumulation in the first place.

The hijacking of Uganda's debt collection industry by court bailiffs is a grave concern that demands immediate attention. It is essential for the government, judiciary, and relevant stakeholders to collaborate in implementing comprehensive reforms that protect the rights and interests of all parties involved. Only through a fair, transparent, and ethical debt collection system can Uganda ensure justice, economic stability, and the well-being of its citizens.

The writer is a debt recovery expert and Managing Director of Smart Skills Limited

Email: [email protected]

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