If you owe a person or company money, they may try to take you to the County Court Money Claims Centre to force you to pay what they say you owe.
Although lots of people have heard about the County Court or a County Court Judgment, most people are not as familiar with the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) and what it does.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the CCMCC, including what you can do if a company you owe money to threatens to contact the CCMCC to force you to repay the money they say you owe.
What does the County Court Money Claims Centre do?
The County Court Money Claims Centre is the central office that deals with enforcing County Court Judgments (CCJs) in England and Wales.
In the past, it was referred to as the ‘small claims court’ – and some people still use this name.
The CCMCC is part of the county court system. It processes the initial paperwork around claims and issues CCJs remotely on behalf of local county courts.
Is the County Court Money Claims Centre different from a local court?
Since the CCMCC is part of the court system, it’s not really different to the local county court.
It’s useful to think of it as a central hub that deals with issuing and enforcing certain CCJs on behalf of courts around England and Wales.
Which parts of the CCJ process does the CCMCC handle?
The County Court Money Claims Centre deals with a lot of the administration involved with a County Court Claim. This includes:
- Sending county claim form packs
- Handling the admission form that you will be asked to return
- Dealing with counterclaim and defence forms
- Receiving and acknowledging the service form
- Issuing the notice of default judgment – the final decision by the district judge
What does the County Court Money Claims Centre process involve?
To understand which parts of the County Court Judgment process the CCMCC gets involved with, it’s useful to understand the full CCJ process from start to finish.
Step 1: Creditor approaches the local court or CCMCC
Your creditor (a person or company you owe money to) can approach the CCMCC or the local court to ask that a judgment is made on a debt.
This involves presenting evidence to a judge, who will then decide whether or not you owe what the creditor claims you do.
They can visit the court to do this, but it’s more likely they will file a claim online.
Before they do this, they should send you a letter known as a ‘letter before claim’. This warns you that they are planning to start court action.
Step 2: The CCMCC will send you a ‘claim form pack’
This claim form pack includes three different forms. You’re expected to choose the form that’s right for you, then return it to the CCMCC.
The forms include are:
- An admission form: You should fill this in and return it if you agree that you owe the debt.
- A counterclaim and defence form: You should complete and return this if you don’t think you owe the money and want to contest the creditor’s claim.
- An acknowledgement of service form: This is a way of giving yourself some time to seek advice on the claim. It pauses the claim for 28 days.
If you’re not sure what to do at this stage, it is important to seek professional debt advice.
Step 3. The CCMCC processes your response
When you send back the appropriate form, the CCMCC will hand the claim over to your local County Court to make a decision on the judgement.
If you fail to send back any of the forms, the CCMCC will inform the county court that this is the case.
Step 4. The County Court makes a decision
If the district judge who reviews the claim decides to issue a CCJ, the court will send you a notification that it has been issued and explain your options for paying the debt.
If you haven’t sent back any of the claim forms in the timescales given, the judge will typically issue a judgment by default, taking the creditor’s version of events and issuing a CCJ against you.
Additional steps the CCMCC may get involved in
If a CCJ is issued, you will have payment terms explained to you. You will usually be asked to pay the debt in full – but HM courts and creditors will often accept a payment plan.
If you fail to make the payment as ordered, the CCMCC may get involved in the process again.
If a creditor doesn’t receive the payment they are expecting, they can make a new claim to ask for bailiffs to be sent to your home to try to recover what’s owed.
The CCMCC may handle this process – by sending a letter called a ‘Notice of Enforcement’ to let you know bailiffs may come to your home at least 7 days after the letter is sent.
In some rare cases, the CCMCC may also be instructed to take other kinds of action against you, such as freezing your bank accounts, until the debt is settled.
How to stop the CCMCC from processing a CCJ against you
If you’ve received letters from your creditors or debt recovery companies but have not or cannot make the payments owed, it can sometimes feel like a CCJ is inevitable. This is especially true if you’re trying to deal with other debts too – but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Talk to your creditors
Before taking your case to the CCMCC, your creditor has to send you a letter to let you know they’re planning on taking court action.
At this stage, you may still be able to discuss a payment plan with them. Calling them as soon as possible and discussing your options is an important step to take and may stop them from proceeding with the court claim.
Return court claim forms promptly
Even if the County Court Money Claims Centre starts the CCJ process, it doesn’t mean a CCJ against you is guaranteed.
The first thing you should be certain to do is completing any relevant forms that you have been sent.
If you don’t do this and 7 days passes, the court claim will go ahead, and you will be issued a CCJ by default. This means you’ve missed out on any opportunity to explain why you don’t owe the debt. When completing court forms, it’s important to seek professional debt advice and go into as much detail as possible.
Present evidence to the court if required
The judge who is handling your case may decide that they’d like more information from you and/or your creditor.
If this is the case, they’ll schedule a court hearing. This gives you a chance to present your side of the story. It’s important to do this if you feel you do not owe what the creditor is claiming you do.
If you plan to present evidence to the court, you’ll need to send it at least 7 days before the hearing date.
Again, if you’re planning to attend your hearing, it’s important to seek professional advice.
Seek debt advice
In some cases, people who have been contacted by the County Court Money Claims Centre decide to seek advice from debt professionals – such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or insolvency practitioners.
When you do, they may talk to you about debt solutions – such as an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).
With formal debt solutions like IVAs, an insolvency practitioner (IP) can step in and stop legal action against you while your application is being processed.
If your IVA goes ahead, legal action (including bailiff visits) will be halted, and the IP will handle communicating with your creditors.
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What is the County Court Money Claims Centre? A recap
The County Court Money Claims Centre is part of the County Court system in England and Wales.
The CCMCC handles some parts of the CCJ claim process – including sending, receiving and processing many of the forms involved with the County Court Judgments.
If creditors threaten CCMCC action, it is the same as being threatened with a CCJ.
If the CCMCC contact you to let you know court action is being taken against you, it is essential that you seek professional debt advice as quickly as possible.
You should reply to letters within the timescales you are given and, if you feel it is appropriate, you can challenge the action being taken against you.
If you are issued with a CCJ, the CCMCC may be involved again if you fail to make the payments as instructed by the court.
They may take part in arranging for bailiffs to visit your home or for further legal action to be taken against you to force you to repay the debt.