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United Utilities query re Court costs and fees

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Hi, this is an enquiry on behalf of a friend of mine (he is 65 so was not quite on the ball with bills etc).

 

He received his United Utilities water bill in March 2013 (for the year 2013/2014), it asked that he pay 50% in April and 50% in August. He normally pays it in full straight away, but due to his financial situation hadn't paid it at the time. He mentioned it to me so I told him to bring his bill round and I would look into setting up a direct debit.

 

On 31 May 2013 I set him up an online account and tried to set up a direct debit for him, but, their website wouldn't allow me to do it so he told me to pay half the bill which they were demanding.

 

Two days later he received a Court Summons for the full amount for the year (just over £400). I defended the claim stating that he had paid a total of 6 months of his account before receiving the summons and that also he disputed the fee they have charged for Solicitors costs of £50 as they had completed the summons in-house and not used a Solicitor. I know I may be wrong on this point hence the thread.

 

I paid the balance of the bill in full on 4 July 2013. We hadn't heard anything from the court office so I phoned them a couple of times for updates. The last time I phoned them in October they told me that United Utilities had not replied and should have done so by July. I asked her then if the case would be struck out and she said no and that the case is on hold and put to stay.

 

He has had no correspondence from the Court since sending in the defence and according to this link he should have received a Directions Questionnaire http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/ex306-eng.pdf

 

However, in this link it says the following;

 

After you reply

 

The court will decide if you owe the money.

 

It may ask you for more information, and will send you a letter if you have to go to a court hearing.

 

https://www.gov.uk/respond-to-court-claim-for-money/deny-owing-the-money

 

Now I checked his UU online account and it is showing an entry for Fees and Costs amounting to £80 (£30 court fees and £50 Solicitors fees).

 

What is his legal position here? Does he still owe UU £80? and can we get this case struck out?

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Hi debtangel and welcome to CAG

 

The DQ is only released once the claimant has informed the court they wish to proceed and it moves to allocation...as you have been told the claim is stayed or parked.

The fees for issuing the claim is standard and the sols fees were necessary (if one used) it should state the litigator on the claim below the particulrs and above the signed box.

 

With regards to the fees being added to the account...questionable.

 

Did he receive a LBA Letter before action re the arrears before the claim?

This would warn he had 7/14 days to act or reach agrrement before litigation commenced...its known as Pre Action Protocol.

 

The problem we have is there is a 2 month gap before anything was done...but none the less you should have received pre warning of the intended litigation.

 

Regards

 

Andy


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Thanks for the reply Andy.

 

The Claim Form was issued by United Utilities not a Solicitor, it was signed by Head of Legal.

 

I've just had a look at his file and he did receive a letter from UU Legal Department dated 15 April 2013 warning of possible court action. (Although considering the charges only began on 1 April I was surprised they sent a demanding letter like that so soon!!)

 

From the letter:-

 

I am instructed by United Utilities PLC to recover your outstanding services charges.

 

The amount you owe is £409. To prevent legal action you should pay this amount within 14 days.

 

Failure to pay will result in recovery action been taken against you for the full outstanding balance on your account. If formal legal action is taken, legal fees and court costs will also be added, increasing the total amount you owe by at least £100.

 

I found UU Code of Practice in relation to debt, but it doesn't make anything clearer.

 

http://www.unitedutilities.com/documents/Code_of_practice_debt_recovery.pdf

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