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i The advice on this page applies to residents in England and Wales only.

Court action in England and Wales to collect debt

If you can’t come to an agreement with your creditors to repay a debt, they can take court action. This is usually a last resort.

If a creditor decides to start court action, they will issue a claim in the County Court. For most types of unsecured consumer debt, such as credit cards, overdrafts or payday loans, they can only do this after your account has defaulted.

However, before issuing any claims in the County Court, a creditor must send you a 'letter of claim' in the post, providing details of the debt.

A letter of claim also includes a reply form, which you must fill in and return to the creditor straight away. If you don't respond to the letter of claim within 30 days, a creditor can proceed with court action.

If they do proceed, you’ll receive some court forms in the post explaining what you owe and asking for information about your circumstances. You must fill these in and return them straight away – you only have a short time to do this.

The court will issue a County Court judgment (CCJ) telling you how much to pay and when.

If you don’t respond to these court forms, the court won’t take your situation into account and you may be told to pay instalments you can’t afford.

What happens if you can't pay a CCJ?

If you can’t make the payments stated in the CCJ your creditor can then take further action to collect the debt. However this is something we can offer you advice on and there are options available to help if you can't pay your CCJ. Find out more about what a creditor can do to enforce a debt against you.

It’s important to get help straight away if you think a creditor is about to start court action. See our guide to responding to a court claim, or call us (free from all landlines and mobiles).


In this section:


  1. Attachment of earnings
  2. Order to obtain information
  3. High court enforcement officers
  4. Third party debt orders
  5. County Court judgments
  6. Tomlin orders
  7. Bailiff help and advice