Company threatens customerThreat to customer lands firm in court

24 January 2006

A company has been fined GBP 750 after it threatened to 'come and find' a customer if he didn't pay a disputed bill.

Ian Vernon initially paid more than GBP 1,700 for work on an effluent pump at his home in Ratby, Leicestershire. But when he called the company again to sort out problems with the pump, it tried to charge him nearly GBP 800 more. He refused to pay and accused the firm of poor workmanship.

The company, Midland Pump Engineers Ltd, of Buckland Road, Leicester, then got its debt collectors to send an invoice with a hand-written note threatening Mr Vernon and his family.

Pay up

The note said:'To Mr Plonk, I have spoken to my engineers and they advised your wife of findings - you will pay this bill within seven days - trust me, you will - I will not do any more letters - I will come and find you. Promise. Yours, Joe. Pay up!'

Leicestershire Trading Standards Service (LTSS) immediately launched a criminal investigation and last week the company was convicted of two offences under consumer protection legislation. It was also ordered to pay costs of GBP 634.

Legal rights

David Bull, Head of LTSS, said: 'The hand-written wording on the invoice clearly caused distress to the consumer and his family and went beyond what could be considered to be acceptable commercial practice.

'I am particularly concerned about the way the company has chosen to deal with this because the consumer had disputed the invoice alleging unsatisfactory work. It is important that a consumer's legal rights are protected and that they are not subjected to threats such as this.'

If you're unhappy with a service you've received, or you're disputing an invoice, you can get advice about your rights from the government's consumer helpline, Consumer Direct, on 08454 040506.