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Fun and games with former business associates

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Hi,

Here's one for you.

 

I work as a freelancer. In June last year I agreed to work with a business, the deal was that I would sell my services through their brand and receive 60% on my billings, for months when I did not bill, I would receive a cash payment to tide me over.

 

I signed an acceptance of offer letter with them and started working with them at the beginning of July.

 

All went well and I quickly secured an opportunity to deliver some highly complex services to a large business I know well. I was concerned at my associates capability to support me with delivery and asked them if they wished to be involved. As the business would be worth several million over a 5 year period they readily reassured me.

 

at this stage I pointed out that if we were going to bid for the work, it would have a significant impact on my short term sales. They told me not to worry.

 

By Mid October, I had spent 6 weeks preparing the initial bid, the timescale with the client had slipped to early 2015 and I informed my associates, this time I offered them the choice of backing out of our relationship if they no longer wished to take the risk of supporting me whilst I bid for it. Again, they reassured me that they were very keen to remain involved and supported me 100% as well as thanking me for my excellent work.

 

Despite this I was beginning to get some pressure to generate short term income so I started to work on a few smaller projects. This pressure increased and I began to have concerns around their capability to deal with a large and complex project especially from the financial perspective as the concerns seemed to indicate that cash flow may be an issue.

 

On 30th November my invoice for October's work was due for payment. 3 days later the money had still not arrived so I wrote to them asking if they had processed the payment and received a cryptic reply along the lines of 'what was due to be paid has been paid'. a week later still nothing. At this point they started to demand information about my clients which was above an beyond the call of detail. I said i wold be happy to share it once their outstanding invoice had been paid. I chased it on two further occasions and was told by them that it was due to be paid and in the process. Again they asked for the detailed information, again I told them that once the outstanding invoice was paid, they would get this information.

 

At this point they showed their true colours. I received a very aggressive email from a the other owner of their business stating that he had 'blocked the payment' because he was unhappy that I had not provided details that I was 'contractually obliged to provide' he then went onto libel me saying he had received information 'concerning me and my character' from 'anonymous individuals' . This email was shared with e 3rd party.

 

I immediately wrote back stating that I did not respond to threats and that the email was libelous as he had not provided the information that he was party to nor had he identified the source - merely implied that it was negative and that he also shared the email with a 3rd party (which he did). I also pointed out that until Monday this week they had not shown any concerns over the quality of the work I had done to date, quite the contrary I had emails from them as well as two telephone conversations (recorded) where they praised my work to date and thanked me for it. I also pointed out that they had accepted the invoice and had been asked on 3 separate occasions where the money was and had on all those occasions been either directly reassured or reassured by implication that all was in hand.

 

The response to this was to send me a copy of some terms of business which I had never seen and which were dated July (I had signed in June). They stated that I was in breach of contract because I had -

a/ set up another similar business outwith their arrangement with the intention of 'cutting them out' (this business predates the relationship with this company and I have always been public about its existence, on twitter and on Linkedin and the business offers services that are in a similar field but completely unrelated to the business I had with the associate. Additionally the associates were well aware of the existence of the business and had never raised it as an issue in the past.)

b/ in witholding the detailed client information they required I was in breach of their contract (the terms of business that I had not seen before). These state nothing about information and only state that if they deem that (unspecified) work is no carried out to their satisfaction, they can pursue me for all money paid to me prior to the date.

 

I wrote to them informing them that I had never seen these terms before and on top of that had never been given any previous indication that my work had been substandard, in fact I had received plaudits for the quality of the work.

 

The reply I got was to 'stop playing games' and that I had 'signed the contract and the terms in July (I actually signed it in June) and that I was bound by it. He also directly accused me of lying and shared the email with two 3rd parties.

 

at this point I had had enough and informed them that our business relationship was over due to non payment of invoice and that I was handing the matter over to a debt collector.

 

They wrote back again telling me to 'stop playing games' and accusing me of breach of contract and demanding that I repay them all money paid to date and returned a laptop by tomorrow (friday) or they would report me to the police for theft.

 

-

 

Since then (tuesday) I have received several emails asking me what I intend to do.

 

I have not replied.

 

-

 

Now I did some checking up on these guys and don't like what I hear. The partner I appear to have fallen out with fancies himself as an amateur lawyer and his emails are full of faux legalese that doesn't make much sense at all. (My late father was a judge and I have a pretty good understanding of what this looks like). It appears he spends most of his time logging online claims through the small claims court so I am concerned that he is going to attempt this tomorrow.

 

Now my reason for posting here is to get a 3rd party perspective on this. I intend to do the following:

1/ hand the debt to a debt collection business and instruct them to pursue it in writing as well as verbally

2/ I have written down the entire sorry saga as best as I can recall and tomorrow I intend to visit a commissioner of oaths and swear an oath on it and post it to myself recorded delivery

3/ pay my lawyer to write a cease and desist letter to the individual who has libeled me threatening him with action if he does it again.

4/ I am considering reporting them for fraud over the 'terms of business' which I had neither seen nor signed

 

My main concern is 2 fold -

1/ to ensure that should he attempt an online small claims bid his claim will run into deep water quickly due to the defence I have and the counter claim.

2/ to make sure I can prove to the police (should he report me for theft) that the matter is civil, that return of the computer in question has been given an unreasonable timescale especially at this time of year (48 hrs) and that as it is a civil case and I am owed money by this business, I have a right to hold it for security and have indeed informed them that I would return it once the invoice was paid.

 

Are my tactics sound and is there anything else I can do? I have limited funds for a fight? Research and having spoken to several people who have carried out the work I have done for them in the past shows that they are not to be trusted and I have heard similar stories.

 

They are very foolish in acting in this way because I am very well known in the industry they work in and could make life very difficult for them in the future. I have not done so yet nor have I threatened them.

 

thanks in advance

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I wouldn't bother with debt collectors - they will charge you a fee for sending out some template letters that are unlikely to be effective.

 

I would send them a letter, entitled 'Letter Before Action', and giving them 14 days to pay the outsanding invoice, failing which you will bring a claim against them in the County Court. You can do all this yourself, or instruct your solicitor to do it.

 

Unless you intend to keep the laptop as part payment of the invoice, I'd return it without prejudice and to demonstrate good faith (or tell them they can arrange to collect it), which will be helpful should the matter go to court - you need to demonstrate how reasonable you are, and how unreasonable the other side is.

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Hi,

Here's one for you.

 

I work as a freelancer. In June last year I agreed to work with a business, the deal was that I would sell my services through their brand and receive 60% on my billings, for months when I did not bill, I would receive a cash payment to tide me over.

 

I signed an acceptance of offer letter with them and started working with them at the beginning of July.

 

All went well and I quickly secured an opportunity to deliver some highly complex services to a large business I know well. I was concerned at my associates capability to support me with delivery and asked them if they wished to be involved. As the business would be worth several million over a 5 year period they readily reassured me.

 

at this stage I pointed out that if we were going to bid for the work, it would have a significant impact on my short term sales. They told me not to worry.

 

By Mid October, I had spent 6 weeks preparing the initial bid, the timescale with the client had slipped to early 2015 and I informed my associates, this time I offered them the choice of backing out of our relationship if they no longer wished to take the risk of supporting me whilst I bid for it. Again, they reassured me that they were very keen to remain involved and supported me 100% as well as thanking me for my excellent work.

 

Despite this I was beginning to get some pressure to generate short term income so I started to work on a few smaller projects. This pressure increased and I began to have concerns around their capability to deal with a large and complex project especially from the financial perspective as the concerns seemed to indicate that cash flow may be an issue.

 

On 30th November my invoice for October's work was due for payment. 3 days later the money had still not arrived so I wrote to them asking if they had processed the payment and received a cryptic reply along the lines of 'what was due to be paid has been paid'. a week later still nothing. At this point they started to demand information about my clients which was above an beyond the call of detail. I said i wold be happy to share it once their outstanding invoice had been paid. I chased it on two further occasions and was told by them that it was due to be paid and in the process. Again they asked for the detailed information, again I told them that once the outstanding invoice was paid, they would get this information.

 

At this point they showed their true colours. I received a very aggressive email from a the other owner of their business stating that he had 'blocked the payment' because he was unhappy that I had not provided details that I was 'contractually obliged to provide' he then went onto libel me saying he had received information 'concerning me and my character' from 'anonymous individuals' . This email was shared with e 3rd party.

 

I immediately wrote back stating that I did not respond to threats and that the email was libelous as he had not provided the information that he was party to nor had he identified the source - merely implied that it was negative and that he also shared the email with a 3rd party (which he did). I also pointed out that until Monday this week they had not shown any concerns over the quality of the work I had done to date, quite the contrary I had emails from them as well as two telephone conversations (recorded) where they praised my work to date and thanked me for it. I also pointed out that they had accepted the invoice and had been asked on 3 separate occasions where the money was and had on all those occasions been either directly reassured or reassured by implication that all was in hand.

 

The response to this was to send me a copy of some terms of business which I had never seen and which were dated July (I had signed in June). They stated that I was in breach of contract because I had -

a/ set up another similar business outwith their arrangement with the intention of 'cutting them out' (this business predates the relationship with this company and I have always been public about its existence, on twitter and on Linkedin and the business offers services that are in a similar field but completely unrelated to the business I had with the associate. Additionally the associates were well aware of the existence of the business and had never raised it as an issue in the past.)

b/ in witholding the detailed client information they required I was in breach of their contract (the terms of business that I had not seen before). These state nothing about information and only state that if they deem that (unspecified) work is no carried out to their satisfaction, they can pursue me for all money paid to me prior to the date.

 

I wrote to them informing them that I had never seen these terms before and on top of that had never been given any previous indication that my work had been substandard, in fact I had received plaudits for the quality of the work.

 

The reply I got was to 'stop playing games' and that I had 'signed the contract and the terms in July (I actually signed it in June) and that I was bound by it. He also directly accused me of lying and shared the email with two 3rd parties.

 

at this point I had had enough and informed them that our business relationship was over due to non payment of invoice and that I was handing the matter over to a debt collector.

 

They wrote back again telling me to 'stop playing games' and accusing me of breach of contract and demanding that I repay them all money paid to date and returned a laptop by tomorrow (friday) or they would report me to the police for theft.

 

-

 

Since then (tuesday) I have received several emails asking me what I intend to do.

 

I have not replied.

 

-

 

Now I did some checking up on these guys and don't like what I hear. The partner I appear to have fallen out with fancies himself as an amateur lawyer and his emails are full of faux legalese that doesn't make much sense at all. (My late father was a judge and I have a pretty good understanding of what this looks like). It appears he spends most of his time logging online claims through the small claims court so I am concerned that he is going to attempt this tomorrow.

 

Now my reason for posting here is to get a 3rd party perspective on this. I intend to do the following:

1/ hand the debt to a debt collection business and instruct them to pursue it in writing as well as verbally

2/ I have written down the entire sorry saga as best as I can recall and tomorrow I intend to visit a commissioner of oaths and swear an oath on it and post it to myself recorded delivery

3/ pay my lawyer to write a cease and desist letter to the individual who has libeled me threatening him with action if he does it again.

4/ I am considering reporting them for fraud over the 'terms of business' which I had neither seen nor signed

 

My main concern is 2 fold -

1/ to ensure that should he attempt an online small claims bid his claim will run into deep water quickly due to the defence I have and the counter claim.

2/ to make sure I can prove to the police (should he report me for theft) that the matter is civil, that return of the computer in question has been given an unreasonable timescale especially at this time of year (48 hrs) and that as it is a civil case and I am owed money by this business, I have a right to hold it for security and have indeed informed them that I would return it once the invoice was paid.

 

Are my tactics sound and is there anything else I can do? I have limited funds for a fight? Research and having spoken to several people who have carried out the work I have done for them in the past shows that they are not to be trusted and I have heard similar stories.

 

They are very foolish in acting in this way because I am very well known in the industry they work in and could make life very difficult for them in the future. I have not done so yet nor have I threatened them.

 

thanks in advance

 

Unless you have very long pockets and lots of patience : forget about pursuit of the libel.

It would be protracted, costly, and may complicate your far simpler claim : breach of contract.

 

As above, send them an LBA fpr what you are owed. Note that you will put them to strict proof you signed the July T's & C's : show them that you signed in June, and it is those terms which apply.

 

Do this only if you will follow through with the County Court claim, and aren't bluffing, as they may think "we'll call their bluff".

 

As noted by another respondent, why complicate things by keeping the laptop?. Hand it back, and remove it from being "a stick they could beat you with".

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From your post I guess you are some kind of IT specialist or similar.

 

If you have a contract and the laptop is included as part of the deal then imo you are entitled to keep it until they comply with their part I.e by paying you.

 

Iwould send them a renewed invoice for outstanding work, detailing everything you are billing them for.

 

Give seven days to pay.

 

The offence of theft is basically appropriating property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of that property. Simple really you will return it when they pay. So there is no intention to keep it permantly!

 

I would send the armchair lawyer that definition of theft under a separate letter stating that you feel their threats are an attempt to unlawfully harras you. You will only deal with the matter in writing of through your solicitor. The libel issue is also deemed as unlawful harassment which you will be forced to report to the police if it continues.

 

You are untitled to keep the laptop until payment is made as long as it represents either the full value of the work or part value. Research the law of property acts.

 

The laptop issue is civil and not criminal and they're trying to fool you into submission.

 

I would also reply that their threats of legal action are vexatious and again a form of harassment as it is they who have breached their contract by withholding payment for services supplied.

 

Start to organise a file with all records relating to this business relationship in date order and keep on top of any letters or deadlines that are required if they decide to issue a claim. Read every document, clause and contract very thoroughly and pay attention to micro details as in my experience there is gold hidden amongst the minutia!

 

Being organised is crucial with issues such as this, a few hours sorting out the paperwork can save months of paper tennis if they decide to litigate.

 

As others have said try to be reasonable in all matters but IMO the laptop can be kept until they pay your invoice.

 

I will keep my eyes on this thread with interest.


I am fighting it all the way :-x

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