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Shell Broadband breach of contract


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On 20 November 2023 a contract upgrade was agreed with Shell Broadband to take our existing 50 Mb ADSL line to a 200 Mb fibre line.

Shell Broadband initally agreed to install the necessary equipment to provide the service free of charge and it was made clear to them that they would be unable to fulfill their service without this equipment being installed.

Shell sent an email saying they would not arrange for an engineer to carry out the works until the connection goes live on 7 December 2023.

Shell was informed this is unacceptable because they would be being charging for a service they were not providing.

On 5 December 2023 Shell wrote in an email that they would charge for an engineer visit if an ONT (fibre terminal) was already present at the property.

There is an ONT present at the property but it is part of a separate line with BT. Based on this Shell rescinded their part of the agreement where they would install the necessary equipment to provide the service they are charging for and said they wish to charge for the intallation of the equipment.

I am of the view that Shell Broadband are in breach of contract.

With a view to mitigating any losses there are two options. Pay for the equipment and raise a claim based on the breach of contract or alternatively go with another supplier who have no issue with installing the equipment free of charge but they charge a higher monthly fee. I consider it may then be possible to raise a claim against Shell for the difference in price of the contract, which is approximately £15 a month.

I would be grateful for any suggestions as to the best way forward.

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I don't fully understand the story – but from what I do gather, it seems more straightforward to have the system installed by Shell and then recover the overpayment through court action.

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Thank you for the suggestion.

Shell are currently arranging a quote for the cost of installation.

I imagine the communication needs to be careful and needs to make clear that any payment is being made under protest to ensure continuity of service but that the charges are not accepted.

If the installation is simply agreed then any right to recourse may be forfeit?

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You don't necessarily give up your rights – and certainly not any more than you might do having the installation done elsewhere.
Yes you should make it clear that your payment is under protest then you should refer to their original promise in the fact that they haven't carried it out.

You have evidence of the original promised arrangement? You may need to send an SAR – and of course you have been down that route before

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Thank you, the evidence will have to come via SAR as it was agreed on the phone. There are a few emails to Shell referring to their promise over the phone. The phone calls weren't made by me and were made on a phone that apparently cannot record calls. A nuisance but it can be overcome.

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Put in the subject access request immediately.

At some point I suggest that you write to the solicitors who know you well by now and point out that you have put their own procedure once and you are more than happy to do it again if necessary. For the moment, simply send the SAR

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SAR has been sent.

Shell have declined to provide a quote to install the necessary equipment.

Shell are due to take a payment of £75 by direct debit for a service they are not providing.

Some further research shows other people have had issues surrounding the installation of a second fibre line which is very confusing because the use of a second line was common place for years on ADSL. For some unknown reason it could be that Openreach are currently limiting the the number of available lines to one per address.

This is all the more confusing as when I explained our requirement to install a second fibre internet line to a BT agent a few months back, the agent explained this could be done quite easily without issue and when we were ready to switch they would be prepared to carry out the necessary work.

There is a service agreement between Shell and Openreach however Shell have ignored my request for a copy of the agreement.

Thank you for the suggestion of writing to their solicitor. You may recall the consent agreement provided that I agree not to make further requests for my personal data. In this case the contract is not in my name and neither is the data request. Unless you think it would stir up some sort of positive response I consider it might be best to wait before involving them?

Edited by Intrepid
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A little more digging and this btwholesale website suggests the following in relation to broadband at our address.

ONT exists with active service. No spare ports are available. A new ONT may be ordered.

Other forums have indicated that some internet suppliers only have contracts for line takeovers as opposed to new lines. Given that we already have an ADSL line it should qualify for a line take over but with the obvious requirement that an ONT (fibre terminal) needs to be installed.

So while Shell keep writing explaining that they cannot install a new line, this is not inkeeping with the btwholesale website nor was it the view expressed by their agent over the phone who considered the equipment should be installed free of charge as part of a new line installation.

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Below is the latest email from Shell.

It is somewhat confusing as Shell do not currently supply a fibre line to our address, BT do (inaccurate data processing?).

Eessentially the email offers to cancel the contract.

I guess its now time to decide what to do;

1. Stay on the contract and attempt to resolve the issue through ADR.
2. Stay on the contract and raise a court claim.
3 .Cancel the contract, find another provider and raise a claim for the losses incurred.

Any suggestions gratefully recieved.
 

Quote

Hello XXXX,

Account number: XXXXXXX

Thank you for your email.

Please be advised that we are supplying the fibre cable to the property, as you have
advised that the property has now been split you would need to register this as two
addresses in order to be able to receive the fibre connection to the separate
residence.

I understand that you are still within your cooling off period, so if you wish to cancel
we are happy to remove any fees applied.

Please advise what you would like to do?

In regards to the payment, no money has been taken or invoiced as of yet.

We are a member of an alternative dispute resolution service. They are called
resolver, you can contact them via https://www.resolver.co.uk/.

If you’ve got any more questions, please email me back and I’ll be happy to help.

There’s also some useful information on our website under help and advice.

Thanks,

The Shell Energy Broadband Team

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That is something that you will have to decide but of course it is helpful that you have already engaged them on a previous case and you should point this out so they know that you aren't mucking around.

Maybe you should engage with their solicitors as well to warn them that their clients are screwing things up again.

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Option 1 isn't very attractive because industry ADR is slow and generally falls in favour of the business paying their subscription.
Option 2 could be tricky because it appears to be a part 7 claim for performance of contract?
Option 3 looks to be the most straight forward.

I contacted BT who so far have put up no fuss about arranging an engineer to install the necessary fibre line.
 

Draft email response to Shell regarding cancelling the contract:
 

Quote

Dear Sir/Madam,

Account reference: XXXXXXX

Shell Broadband is not currently supplying a fibre cable to my property, the data you hold in this respect is inaccurate.

I have no choice but to cancel the contract we entered into as you are unwilling to install the necessary equipment to provide the service you sold me and therefore would be charging me for a service you are not providing.

I reserve my right to claim from you any losses I incur as a result of your breach of contract.

Yours faithfully,

XXXX

Draft letter before claim to follow:

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  • 1 month later...

Draft letter before claim below.

@BankFodder I remember you suggested contacting their solicitor and I think now might be a good time but I'm unsure how best to do it as the contract isn't in my name and my name wont be on the letter before claim.

I could send a copy of the final letter before claim to their solicitor indicating the claim is likely to land at their door step, but now is a good opportunity to get things sorted.
 

Quote

Octopus Energy Limited
UK House
5th Floor
164-182 Oxford Street
London
W1D 1NN

Sent by email only: greg@octopus.energy, cc support@serl.zendesk.com

 

Dear Mr Jackson,

LETTER BEFORE CLAIM

Account Reference: XXXX
Enquiry Reference: XXXX

The account referenced above was operated under the care of Shell Energy Retail Limited (“Shell Energy”) located at Shell Energy House, Westwood Way, Westwood Business Park, Coventry, CV4 8HS.

Unfortunately following Octopus Energy’s take-over of Shell Energy communicated on 1 December 2023, you will likely come to learn you have acquired a business with one of the worst customer service records in the industry, that has regularly acted unlawfully and who’s agents are routinely dishonest.

On 20 November 2023 an order was raised with Shell Energy Broadband Team operated by Shell Energy for Full Fibre 200. It was made clear during the ordering process that an engineer would be required to upgrade my existing copper line to a fibre connection.

On 23 November 2023 Shell Energy wrote to me indicating I did not require an engineer to visit my property.

On 26 November 2023 I responded indicating the information Shell Energy held was inaccurate and what it needed to do to put things right in order to fulfil the terms agreed to in the contract between us.

On 18 December 2023 I wrote to Shell Energy making it clear its failure to provide the service agreed was a breach of contract and the agreement between us was terminated.

On 28 December 2023 Shell Energy wrote to me stating there was a credit on the account and that no payments would be taken in relation to my account.

You will understand Shell Energy never provided me with service advertised as Full Fibre 200 and despite the commitment by your agents not to take any payment for the account Shell Energy took payment of £26.99 on 5 January 2024 and on 17 January 2024 raised a further bill for £26.99.

As a result of your breach of contract I was forced to approach another broadband provider. This significantly delayed the start of my new service up to 16 January 2024, a total of 40 days. Ofcom currently consider an appropriate amount of compensation for the delayed start to a new service is £5.83 per day.

My new broadband provider costs significantly more at £34.99 a month increasing to £37.75 from March 2024, a difference of £14.17 a month. This is a loss which I am forced to bear as a result of your breach of contract until my contract terminates in December 2025.

The Claim

From you I am claiming the following damages:

  1. Payment of £26.99 taken on 5 January 2023;
  2. Compensation for delayed start to new service £233.20; and
  3. Contractual losses £287.97

Total damages £575.15

Next steps

I look forward to receiving payment within 7 days of the date of this letter.

Payment can be made to:

XXXX
Account number: XXXX
Sort Code: XXXX

Alternatively, you can send me a cheque at the address of this letter.

If I do not receive a satisfactory response within 14 days I will raise a claim in the County Court without further reference to you.

Yours sincerely,

 

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A few points followed by draft particulars:

On 4 December 2023 Shell Energy Retail Limited was renamed Octopus Energy Operations 2 Limited. Companies House indicates this renamed company is controlled by Octopus Energy Limited.

I think it is clear the claim should be brought against Octopus Energy. The company has a reputation for providing decent customer service so I am interested to see how they respond.

The total claim is close to £575, however in the interest of reducing costs I think it is best to limit the claim to £500. Claims often get negotiated down by the Court and I don't think the additional costs are worth the additional £75 which might eventually be dismissed by a judge.

Quote

1.       On 20 November 2023 I placed an order for Full Fibre 200 broadband with the Defendant.

2.       The Defendant failed to install the necessary equipment to provide the service it had sold me and is in breach of contract.

3.       As a result of the Defendant’s breach of contract I have had to source my internet service from another provider at an additional cost of £287.97 which I am claiming from the Defendant.

4.       I am claiming £233.20 as compensation for the delayed start to my new service up until 16 January 2024.

5.       I am claiming £26.99 for the payment taken by the Defendant on 5 January 2023 for a service not in use.

6.       Total claim £575.15.


 


 

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Shell Broadband refused to provide compensation for the issues it has caused.

The final offer was a £50 credit towards a contract which was supposed to have been terminated weeks ago.

Claim issued.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Claim has been issued.

Shell Energy quickly moved on from its stance of we owe you nothing to making an offer of £100 to settle the claim.

Attached below is a copy of Shell Energy's offer.

As a point of strategy, I consider it may be an opportune time to provide with my offer a letter of claim for Shell Energy's inaccurate data processing indicating what the consequences if it is not possible to reach settlement.

Draft response to their letter below.

Quote

I respond to your email of 19 February 2024 and your following points.

The dispute arises out of the service operated under the care of Shell Energy Retailed Limited (‘Shell Energy’) now wholly owned by Octopus Energy Limited.

1.      I respond to your first point that Shell Energy is “not obligated” to compensate me in excess of the sum I have claimed. You have misunderstood Shell Energy’s position.

1.1.     In the interest of mitigating my losses and reducing my costs I have limited the value of my claim and therefore I am not entitled to a Judgment in Default in excess of the sum claimed. Pursuant to CPR 16.7 (3) “The statement of value in the claim form does not limit the power of the court to give judgment for an amount which it finds the claimant is entitled to.” In any case how Shell Energy chooses to settle my claim is entirely within its own means.

2.      I respond to your second point, Shell Energy has “no legal obligation” to compensate me for its breach of contract.

2.1.     The fact you consider OFCOM’s Automatic Compensation Scheme to be voluntary is inconsequential. OFCOM, the regulator for broadband suppliers, has clearly laid out compensation it believes to be appropriate when there is a substantial failure of service. The fact Shell Energy does not volunteer to pay money automatically does not limit my right to pursue the damages I have incurred through the courts. I will invite the Court to assess my damages resulting from your breach of contract on this basis.

3.     I respond to your third point that Shell Energy is “not obliged to refund” the payment it took following 18 December 2023 and that “there has been no interruption in service”.

3.1.     The service you inaccurately refer to as the “current service” was terminated in writing on 18 December 2023. It is clear from the wording of your letter that you understand the “upgraded package” was exactly that, an upgrade to my existing copper line. Your organisation and its agents made the error of attempting to transfer a fibre broadband line in the name of a third party instead of upgrading the existing service I had in place with you and under my own name.

4.       I respond to your fourth point that Shell Energy “cannot be held accountable for a higher priced service”.

4.1.     Shell Energy was notified on 30 December 2023 I had no choice to seek an alternative broadband provider and that this would incur additional cost. These losses clearly materialise centrally from Shell Energy’s breach of contract and have been clearly explained to you. The burden therefore lies with Shell Energy to prove to the Court it is not liable to me for these losses.

5.       I respond to your fifth point or rather bare denial that Shell Energy has not “breached any contracts”.

5.1.     Shell Energy was contracted to upgrade my existing copper line and provide me with Full Fibre 200 broadband. At no point was this service provided and once it was clear Shell Energy would not make good on its commitment my contract with you was terminated in writing on 18 December 2023. Shell Energy should not have continued to operate two concurrent services and until such time as you have ceased all accounts and refunded me the payments you have taken in relation to such services from 18 December 2023 then I will proceed with my Claim.

6.     Shell Energy’s significant errors will be made clear to the Court. For the avoidance of doubt all our dealings were terminated on 18 December 2023. You will note that Shell Energy continued to take payment for a service no longer agreed to be under your care and it was therefore necessary for me to cancel my direct debit.

7.     In reference to this matter, I have obtained a copy of my credit file. Upon review it is clear you have inaccurately processed my personal data. You are hereby notified to remove all reference to arrears on the account.

8.     You should be aware your organisation recently paid £1800 to avoid a court judgment arising out of similar circumstances. If you are not aware then please have a discussion with Mr Shotton-Oza who should explain to you in detail what it cost Shell Energy to correct its mistakes.

9.     I appreciate Shell Energy has moved from its original position that it will “not be covering any additional costs”. I note your offer of payment for £100 is only made following the issue of my Claim and not in response to my letter dated 23 January 2024.

10.   Based on the points set out above, your offer of £100 plus court fee is declined. I am willing to accept an interim payment of £100 on the mutual understanding that I will continue to pursue Shell Energy for the remaining outstanding sum.

11.   I remain of the view it is possible to unburden the Court and resolve our dispute amicably before further costs are incurred, however it will require prompt action from you.

The Offer

12.   I offer to discontinue my claim on the following terms in which Shell Energy agrees to immediately:

12.1.  pay me the sum of £475.15;

12.2.  cease all accounts it has inaccurately kept running;

12.3.  mark all accounts in reference to its supply of broadband on my credit file as £0; and

12.4.  instruct the credit reference agencies to which it reports to remove any reference to any default, arrears i.e. account code other than 0 for the entire history of the accounts.

Next Steps

Please confirm, whether you accept the offer in principle which will remain open for acceptance until 4:00 PM on 5 March 2024, after which point it will be automatically withdrawn.

I reserve my right to refer the Court to this letter on the matter of costs should you decline my Offer and continue to defend my Claim.

Yours sincerely,

 

SERL - Defendant - Email 19.02.24 - Redacted.pdf

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