Updated: 09:56, Monday March 05, 2007
Bailiffs could soon be breaking into homes to seize goods for credit card debts without a court order.
A new law will leave vulnerable people at risk from 'rogue enforcers', according to Citizens Advice.
The charity has revealed nearly two thirds of bailiffs are guilty of harassment or intimidation, while 40% misrepresent their powers of entry.
Under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, which is being debated in the House of Commons, all bailiffs will be given the power to enter domestic premises and enforce consumer credit debts, including credit card bills.
At present, only certain enforcement officers - notably those enforcing magistrates court fines - have these powers.
And bailiffs can only break in to homes if they have a court order.
David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Our evidence over many years shows that bailiffs have an appalling track record of abusing their existing powers against vulnerable people.
"They are often abusive and aggressive and use threats of violence and prison to pressurise people into paying lump sums they cannot afford."
The charity is also pressing for independent regulation of bailiffs to be included in the proposed legislation.
Citizens Advice said evidence from its network of bureaux revealed that many private debt enforcers act almost as a law unto themselves.
Checks on 500 bailiff cases revealed intimidation, harassment and excessive fee-charging were commonplace.
Citizens Advice is calling on the Government to include in the Bill clear safeguards to ensure that forced entry is only used as a last resort.