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I have been issued with backdated fine for over £7,000


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Hi,

 

I rent some therapy rooms and book via an online system. These rooms are billed at £15 p/h and I make payments via PayPal. The booking system is quite bad and lets you mark rooms as paid (without paying) and can cancel and re-arrange appointments without notifying the owners of the therapy rooms.

 

The owners stipulate that if you do not pay for a room on the exact date it is booked the a £50 fine will be added. They also stipulate that if you do not ask permission before re-arranging or cancelling an appointment a £50 fine will be added. This is not a signed contract, just simply an email they sent out last year.

 

In the last week I have received numerous emails requesting amounts in regards to fines for rearranging or cancelling appointments from April 15 - April 16.

 

Email One: Requested £400

Email Two: Requested £1400

Email Three: £400

Email Four £1400

Email Five: £3500 with a PayPal invoice attached

Email Six: They have changed it to £7500

 

In truth, I probably have rearranged many clients without notifying them before hand, however I have always paid for the room used. The amount they are requesting is solely for fines.

 

Is this possible? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. There is no way I could even give them this money if I even had it.

 

Thanks in advance!

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Although there may not be a written contract, it is entirely possible the terms and conditions can be implied into a contract or can be included simply because they have been referred to – and accepted – in prior correspondence.

 

I'm sorry to say that your account here is a bit garbled and it's not really possible to understand exactly what has happened. However, I can tell you that your contracting partner is able only to recover any actual losses which are caused by any breach by you of the contract.

 

Anything else is unenforceable.

 

I think you need to have a look at what you've posted here and see how you can present it in better detail and in a more structured and chronological way.

 

"Better detail" doesn't necessarily mean more words. It is better that it means – more relevant words.

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Thanks for the response. Sure, I shall try to break it down further.

 

- I book therapy rooms for £15 via an online booking system, paying with PayPal.

 

- Sometimes clients want to rearrange, you can cancel a room and book a different date/time via the booking system, however the owners of the therapy room stipulate that you must get permission from them before doing so, not doing it yourself.

 

- Because I have rearranged my clients without asking for permission they have imposed the £50 fine, backdating to April 2015. Please note the rooms were paid for (£15) but I am being charged for rearranging or cancelling rooms. If you cancel a room, it goes back on the system and another therapist can book that date and time. It is not void.

 

- Over the last week they have sent me several emails telling me I owe varying amounts. Each time I request a detailed breakdown they dig deeper into my account an increase the fines.

 

- Yesterday they sent me a PayPal invoice for £3,500 in fines for rearranging my bookings.

 

- Upon requesting further information of how they came to this figure, they have now said it is actually £7,500 in fines. If I want them to provide more detail it will increase.

 

I hope that makes it clearer! Thanks for your help so far.

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This is a bit tricky legally, as when you booked these rooms, they stipulated there would be this £50 charge. In a recent supreme court case Barry Beavis on private parking penalty charges, lost a case that the parking penalties were unfair. OK it is a different thing, as it relates to parking and not rented rooms, but a precedent is created that if you use space owned by someone else and they apply terms for that usage or booking arrangement, you consent to those terms. The charges were deemed to be reasonable.

 

I think you need someone legally qualified to look at all of the paperwork to see how you can challenge. The owners of the therapy rooms could take you to court, so you need to get proper advice. Many high street Solicitors offer a free half hour consultation.

 

The backdating and way they are dealing with you does sound a bit dodgy. How are they working out these charges.

We could do with some help from you.

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Thanks for the response. I have requested several times for a breakdown of how they are working out but to date, all I receive is a screenshot of the booking system and a screenshot of payments received by me on PayPal on their account.

 

For instance it will show a room is booked for John for therapy on the 20th April. The booking was made on the 5th of April and I made payment on the 10th of April. Therefore a £50 fine is applied as I did not make payment at the time of booking (5th April).

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You need to send a recorded delivery letter asking them to provide a full breakdown from x date to y date. Whatever period they are trying to charge you for.

 

Just say you are totally confused and dispute the information they are sending you. In order that you can look into this, a full breadown is required.

 

Important to have a recorded communication, so you can show to a court if it gets that far. With an email, they might say not received or looked at, so better to send recorded letter.

We could do with some help from you.

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Personally, I understood that if an email is sent and is not returned as undelivered then it is legally received, where a recorded delivery is not tracked from point of posting to the sorting office so can get lost..

 

I am sure i have read of people saying that an email was not received or not seen and Judges have accepted, asking whether it might have been better to send a letter by recorded post.

 

I am old fashioned in believing something important is better sent by recorded post.

We could do with some help from you.

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I'm sorry, but I don't think that the Beavis case applies to this.

 

You say that you book the therapy room for £15. Was this £15 per hour? And was your room booking for longer than an hour?

 

Who is it who is using the word "fines"? Is it you – or them?

 

In the Beavis case it was clearly said that there was a commercial interest in levying the charges. I think that this suggests that in the same way that the Supreme Court in 2009 help the bank charges were a legitimate source of core revenue, the charges levied by the private parking industry might be treated in the same way.

 

This doesn't appear to me to be the same situation at all here.

 

It seems to me that the most you could be liable for would be for the cost of an unused therapy room – if indeed it was not re-let – and any associated administration charges relating to your cancellation. Of course, in that case it would be far cheaper for you simply to leave the room unused and bear the loss of £15.

 

I think that what we are hearing here is a way of leveraging a situation here to turn normal human/business behaviour into a little money earner – a bit like the gym and fitness industry is doing with people who want to cancel their gym contracts.

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I think you are probably correct Bankfodder and it would be up to the therapy room owner to justify their demands.

 

I was trying to think why the therapy owner might justify the charges, with some lateral thinking. Even though it might not make sense. It is just whether booking rooms consenting to the booking terms justified the charges being applied.

 

Why would the owner be interested in changes, as long as rooms were paid for, including any not used at short notice, where they could not be rented to someone else ?

We could do with some help from you.

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Thanks for all the responses.

 

- The rooms are charged at £15 p/h, if I used them for 1 hour 1/2 then I would pay £27.50.

 

- They are using the word 'fine'.

 

- In response to me telling them that I cancelled rooms which I had paid for, therefore I should receive credit, this is their response 'No emails then fines will be imposed.' . When they say 'no emails'. They mean no correspondence from me telling them the room is cancelled. I have simple cancelled the room on the booking system (having paid for it).

 

- The reply upon requesting a detailed breakdown: 'I can do a detailed breakdown that but it would be even worse for the invoice, about £7,000 MORE!'

 

- They sent me the invoice due to it being the end of the tax year and said they had to get it in.

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Well they are clearly being very careless about the way they express themselves in the information they put out.

 

You may as well tease a little bit more out of them if you can.

 

I suggest that you send them a letter telling them that you're not prepared to consider any of their invoices until you get a fully detailed breakdown of exactly how they have arrived at their calculation.

 

Don't get involved in any more correspondence with them.

 

Hopefully they will give you the detailed breakdown and you can add that to your file.

 

They use of the word "fine", this sudden backdating of charges and their threat to increase the amount of money if you insist on detailed breakdown, is all extremely unhelpful to them.

 

See what you get from them.

 

In the meantime I would stop doing any business with them

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That is great, thanks for all your help. I actually had a room booked for tomorrow (paid for) which they said I could not use until I paid their invoice. They did not refund me either. Since then they have blocked me out of the system so I am no longer able to use their rooms.

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I was trying to think why the therapy owner might justify the charges, with some lateral thinking. Even though it might not make sense. It is just whether booking rooms consenting to the booking terms justified the charges being applied.

It's not a lot different from booking a hotel room online through one of the booking sites. Would anyone think it justified to charge over three times the cost of the room as a cancellation charge?

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In addition to this I should note that £7,500 has not always been the final figure, it has gone up several times due to me asking for a breakdown.

 

- Originally it was £400, which rose to £1,400.

 

- It was then lowered to £400, which I agreed to pay. Upon asking to pay in two instalments the amount rose back to £1,400.

 

- Again I asked for a breakdown, this is when it rose to £3,500 and they sent me a PayPal invoice (This was yesterday).

 

- Again I asked for a breakdown and received an email quoting £7,500 and if I wanted a breakdown it was likely to increase.

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So they are fining you for not using a room, even though you paid for it ?

 

Is this because they offer other facilities at the venue and if your clients don't attend they lose out on other revenues ?

 

If they have staff or other businesses at the venue, who need to be aware of room usage for business reasons, they might apply this fine, as they don't have the footfall of your clients spending money at the venue.

 

Is this a possibility of why they think these charges are justified ?

 

Or do they provide receptionist and admin facilities at the venue to welcome your clients, so they would be employing staff for hours, where nobody is attending.

 

Not that it matters. It is the nature of any business that clients will change their bookings and they are not guaranteed that your clients would spend money on other things at the venue.

We could do with some help from you.

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No they do not offer any other facilities. The rooms are actually in the business owners house which they have converted to therapy rooms. We have our own pin number to enter the building and welcome the clients personally.

 

The fine is for, paying for a room, then rearranging or cancelling the room without notifying them.

 

Upon rearranging or cancelling, the room becomes free again on the booking system for other therapists to book.

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I would ask the question as to whether they have consent by council to use for business purposes.

 

The other question is what is the nature of the therapy being offered at the house ? Is this relevant to the owner of the house, where they need to be aware of who is attending for record purposes ? They have an Insurance requirement or other requirement where they must have full information by email or they could incur additional costs or penalty. This is the homeowners house so they are more concerned about who is attending.

 

Having worked in Insurance, i have come across people using their private homes for many different purposes. The word 'therapy' is used to cover a large range of things, some of which represent an issue to Insurance underwriters. I am not suggesting the therapy you provide is any risk or moral hazard. But i have come across people using the word 'therapy' for 'adult' services.

We could do with some help from you.

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Phone the councils business rates department, saying you are looking to use therapy rooms at a private residential address and are concerned by whether the home owner has consent by the council for the business use, paying appropriate business rates. I think that is the only way you might find out,

We could do with some help from you.

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Ha, no it is for counselling. Is this website any good for checking business rates: http://www.2010.voa.gov.uk/rli/en/basic/find

 

Don't know about that site.

 

I asked the question about the therapy, as you will be surprised what you come across.

We could do with some help from you.

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I think that it is about time you told us who they are.

 

Also, please can you post up here the message which you received from them referring to "fines"

 

If this was done in a letter then please post up a scan that us all to see. You can redact any identifiers, of course

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