I love going to court. Odd as it may sound. If it has got to that stage because the other party has annoyed me that much it is a pleasure to carry out that threat “If I am not fully satisfied with your response I will seek redress in the Small Claims Court.” Companies think you won’t bother or in the case of Tesco just ignore you. I go to court when I’m pretty certain I’m going to win because a Law has clearly been broken and in the case of Tesco the other party has simply not done what it said in black and white it would do. You can’t get much nearer to being 100% sure you are going to win! But people are using this process less and less and this number is expected to fall given the changes.
The Observer Wot I was In
On Sunday I was in The Observer in an article about Small Claims Court fees going up. (If you are here having read the article then you might be looking for the Tesco court story. You’ll find that here, the update here the end here, my first post about Tesco here some fun with Tesco here and here, another story here and reasons why you should not let companies to get away with even tiny amounts of money here with another Tesco story to come in the next couple of weeks! 🙂 )
Online readable version here.
Not sure what I think of all this media coverage for just carrying out my mantra “It’s the principle of the thing”. BBC did hair and make up and the radio no-one sees me so that has a preference over the paper I think! Although you never know what the paper will actually say of course so in a way just as nerve racking as live stuff! Harriet Meyer was lovely and the photographer Antonio Olmos, well considering I can’t have been nearly as interesting or quite as frightening as most of the stuff he does he was very nice to me. Well other than refusing to Photoshop my picture because he is a professional and my son being disappointed when he went to the door knowing that “Antonio” was coming that he wasn’t actually Gold Power Ranger. The Bull and I were quite pleased with how the kitchen looked!
So, the fees?
In yet another blow to consumers, the Government after having slashed legal aid has now increased the costs for the Small Claims Court. Find them here. (I’ve noticed that many money websites have not been ahead of the game and although the fees go up today (22nd April) have not updated their sites. So be warned follow that link for accurate information as it is the Court site! Update court fees went up again in 2015.
What will this mean for consumers?
The (in my opinion) wrong decision has been made as is often typical on short sighted thinking. Costs of running the court go up so lets put fees up. But, as The Observer reported cases going to court “…slumped by more than 50% in the past five years, with 29,577 hearings in 2013, compared to 53,248 in 2007. So just watch the cases going to court continue to drop as people don’t risk the higher fees. It’s false economy. Increasing fees does not encourage anyone to use the services so it is bad news for consumers and probably staff because watch the redundancies follow as not as many staff are needed.
For cases over £1000 the costs are rising significantly. It is a sliding scale depending on how much you are claiming and for claims ranging from £3,000 to £5,000, there is a near doubling of the fee to £205. It is obvious, at least to me that this will put people off going to court.
There is help for people on low incomes etc. But get through a 32 page document first!
Not a lot. With Trading Standards budgets slashed consumers are left more vulnerable and that is a postcode lottery again. Contacting them is a possibility. Citizen’s Advice, again budgets slashed so they are limited in what they can do. Mediation is a cheaper alternative worth considering.
You have the Financial Ombudsman for financial products, free service but still takes time and CISAS for member telecom companies. I have used both (as you would expect). Won both times with FO and with CISAS against Virgin. The second time with Virgin and CISAS the complaint was partially upheld. I believe that the mot recent one (judgement in last few weeks) was only partially upheld due to appalling administration. I may write up a post about this. But for now be warned make sure you have everything as you want it when you send it through. Despite forms saying that you CAN add to evidence and directing staff to that form and quoting it you may get refused, like I did even though it was sent just five minutes after the ‘phone call saying it was ready. The adjudication is probably fair and timely but getting it there can be stressful. I found it far more stressful than taking Tesco to court due to the inefficiency. There are other ombudsman services covering various sectors.
Do everything you can to avoid going to court. Don’t physically or verbally threaten. Write following these Top 20 Tips. Do some Internet searching on the individual or company and see what other people have done, any CCJs against them already to help you make a decision. (Small charge)
What to consider if thinking of going to court
1) It takes ages. From start to court hearing was 6 months. The process is relatively simple but not always completely clear and changes, so don’t be caught out if you have been through the process before.
2) If, like me you are thinking of taking a large organisation like Tesco to court the chances of you being paid when you win are of course high. I really wanted to not be paid in time so I could send the bailiffs in and I didn’t get paid but it was just the usual poor internal communication. 🙁 But seriously, if you take a rip off builder to court for example, consider the chances of being paid, the potential further costs of enforcing the judgement, and the builder going bankrupt.
3) Whether you can take on further stress knowing that the whole process will take 6 months and a fair bit of your time putting evidence together and undertaking the court paperwork. (I did not find the court paperwork cumbersome but putting evidence together can be).
4) The likelihood of winning.
Tips for going to court
You have looked through all the Small Claims Court information and have decided to proceed. So how best to do it?
1) Be objective don’t use any emotive language.
2) Be polite and precise.
3) When using appendices (I had numerous!) number them and refer to each piece by the number in the explanation in order. Make it easy for the judge.
4) Clearly demonstrate how the Law has been broken e.g. “The photo of item in appendix x shows described fault..”
5) Use good English!
6) Check deadlines for court processes.
7) Check and double check through your paperwork and unless you are absolutely sure it makes perfect sense, get someone to check through for you.
8) Make sure you use the online process, it is cheaper.
9) When at court be respectful and allow for them running late!
10) Don’t forget to claim for court fees and any out of pocket expenses for going to court.
Small Claims Genie gives lots of information, tips and advice you should look at too.
Update -- story got picked up by BBC Breakfast.
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More details about how to complain and hopefully avoid legal action in the book.
So, have you been to court? How did you find it and what advice would you give?