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Old 26-12-2016, 05:35 PM   #1
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County Court Advice

We have an issue at work with a contractor that stopped working for us. The last invoice submitted by the contractor two month ago is still outstanding. The reason is that it was incorrectly invoiced - we disputed part of the invoiced amount (around 20% of the invoice total).

We asked the contractor to re-invoice correctly, but he refused and replied that we should pay the amount we agree with as partial payment on the original invoice.

We did not want to do this, mostly for administrative reasons, and asked again that he re-invoice correctly. Last week we received a County Court Claim Form where the contractor is claiming the original amount, plus interest, plus court fees.

There is a history to this, I would say mutual dissatisfaction that led to acrimoniousness termination of our arrangement. In that context I suspect that the contractor either thought we are trying to avoid paying him, or perhaps he is bitter about how things played out. Or perhaps he is just the litigious type - I do not know.

Either way, I would have thought that submitting a County Court Claim when the invoice is less than one month overdue, and when we have offered an avenue for amicable resolution, is a bit rash and also irrational.

Possibly he knows that we do not have the time or energy to engage in litigations, and that as business we can't risk having a County Court judgement against us (courts are always a bit of a lottery) because it might affect our ability to raise credit with suppliers. And having the Claim Form served just before the holiday period with fourteen days to reply is likely not a coincidence - he is probably aware that it will be difficult for us to deal with this properly or get advice etc within the required time frame.

I am not familiar with County Court procedures... I would have thought that the would be a requirement for the claimant to make reasonable effort to settle to claim before proceeding with County Court claim. We had an exchange of emails where we made our proposal which he refused, but that's about it.

How should we go about this? If he thought we would not want to waste time on this then he is quite right, but at this point it is not clear to me what is the best way forward. We are reluctant to pay the interest and court fees he is asking for and it seems to me that he is making a point of making our life difficult, rather than simply trying to get paid what he is due.

Last edited by markjay; 26-12-2016 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 26-12-2016, 05:57 PM   #2
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He should have written to you to say that unless his invoice was paid in full within seven days of this date, then he will be applying for a summons against you for non payment of invoices. That is at least how it always was, and included in this letter would be his final invoice. Whenever I took main contractors to court, and it happened a few times, we always had to give them notice, to either come to an agreement, or expect a summons. I never lost a court case yet.

Last edited by Peter103; 26-12-2016 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:01 PM   #3
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He should have written to you to say that unless his invoice was paid in full within seven days of this date, then he will be applying for a summons against you for non payment of invoices. That is at least how it always was, and included in this letter would be his final invoice.
Is this a mandatory requirement? He sent us emails (which we do not deny) but not a written/printed letter.
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:05 PM   #4
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You are requesting legal advice from strangers on the internet?
Seems a strange thing to do!
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:10 PM   #5
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You are requesting legal advice from strangers on the internet?
Seems a strange thing to do!
Just gauging the views of trusted forum members... no action will be taken before 3rd January anyway.

As for strangers.... virtual relationships are very real (and this is not an oxymoron). There are members here I know for several years now.... I would not regard them as strangers.
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:12 PM   #6
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Is this a mandatory requirement? He sent us emails (which we do not deny) but not a written/printed letter.
Years ago when this first occurred, the court sent me instructions on correct procedure, whether it was law, or simply standard practice I don't know, but I always gave them one last chance.
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:20 PM   #7
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Is that a knock on the door I hear?
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Old 26-12-2016, 06:45 PM   #8
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I believe there is an option to admit part of the claim.

You could admit the part you agree on, defend the balance and defend the court fees in full on the grounds that court action was precipitate and not necessary.

I'm not an expert - but I have used (and defended) CC claims reasonably successfully over the course of a number of years running a SME.

When the festive season is over you will no doubt have access to professional advice... are you a member of a Trade Association or Chamber of Commerce that has free advice lines for members?
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Old 26-12-2016, 07:05 PM   #9
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> He sent us emails (which we do not deny) but not a written/printed letter. <

Emails ARE written correspondence, and I think they're fully accepted as such in law.
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Old 26-12-2016, 07:17 PM   #10
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Emails are and can be used if he has already sort your permission to use them and you have not said otherwise. He would also have to prove that you received them. This is possible so don't discount it.
Do not ignore the CC letter - Im guessing it's from Moneyclaim (.gov)
If you ignore it, the judge will rule in his favour. Before a date is set, you will get the opportunity to go to court, pay up, part pay up and/or mediation.
Mediation involves a person ringing you and ringing them ( for up to an hour) and trying to sort things out. However both parties have to agree this.

If its not possible it will then be assigned a date via a court - this generally will be your nearest court
Only if it went to court, judgment was made against you/company and then you didn't pay up would CCJ's and /or bailiffs turn up.

As said above do not ignore any letters and there are specific timescales involved in replying.
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Old 26-12-2016, 07:17 PM   #11
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Hi Mark
I had to go through the county court two years ago over a problem with a car dealer. Although the whole thing looks very daunting at first, it is a relatively simple process and does not normally require legal professionals.
If the process is the same as in my case the first step is to go through a hour long phone mediation appointment with a trained court mediator who will try to resolve this with both parties before going to court.
The best way to defend yourself is to be able to prove you have tried all reasonable steps to try and resolve this outside the court process and the other party is being heavy handed and using the court process to bully you into paying.
The CAB has a really helpful phone support line to give you guidance on the correct path the take.
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Old 26-12-2016, 08:52 PM   #12
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How much is the 20% being disputed worth in real money?
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Old 26-12-2016, 09:04 PM   #13
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Good question for risk vs reward assessment, but may not be best to give details on an open forum as the other party may be reading and see what the thoughts being played out are.
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Old 26-12-2016, 10:11 PM   #14
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Your business insurance will have legal advice support and will most likely provide support.

I thought you needed to give someone 28 days in writing or via email before you move to this stage.

Hope you get it sorted
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Old 26-12-2016, 11:35 PM   #15
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Your business insurance will have legal advice support and will most likely provide support...
Good point. Will give them a call.
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