Private bailiff firms used by local authorities to collect unpaid council tax are driving vulnerable people further into debt through bad practice, a consumer rights charity has said.
Citizens Advice claims that bailiffs are having a "devastating" effect on people's lives by intimidating and harassing people, as well as charging excessive fees.
The charity is launching a new campaign to lobby local government to introduce tighter regulations on the use of private bailiff companies after receiving complaints that they were leaving already indebted people with no protection.
In the same week that the campaign is launched, BBC1 is set to broadcast an undercover investigation into the "murky" world or bailiff firms and their unreasonable practices in its Whistleblower programme on Tuesday evening.
As Citizens Advice prepares for its annual conference in York, its chief executive David Harker today said: "Reports from clients of intimidation, unreasonable demands and excessive charges by bailiffs are commonplace.
"This sort of behaviour along with excessive fee-charging by bailiffs is driving already vulnerable people deeper into poverty and debt. It is essential that the regulation of bailiff practices is included in the government's new draft bill to end these unacceptable practices," Mr Harker added.
The charity also alleges that bailiffs are intentionally removing property from people not on their collection lists, as well as knowingly taking goods not owned by the person in debt.