Saturday, 15 June 2013

Breaches of the Money Laundering Regs due to non-registration with the OFT

It is a requirement of the Money Laundering Regs 2007 that all Estate Agents MUST be registered with the OFT for Money Laundering purposes - this requirement has been in place since 2009.

An unregistered Estate Agent is prohibited from undertaking Estate Agency business.

Many Estate Agents chose not to do so, for whatever reason, and the OFT have confirmed to us that this is a criminal offence for which the OFT has the power to prosecute and/or apply civil sanctions in the form of penalties.

In a recent small claims case, the Judge determined that failure to have registered at the point that the Agreement was signed rendered the Agreement illegal at common law and a complete defence to the claim.  Further, failure to collect photographic evidence of the signee's identity rendered the Agreement illegal by Statute, again a complete defence to the claim.

You can read the full Regulations here -

A full list of registration dates can be requested from the OFT via a Freedom of Information Act request but here are the details of just a few of the 'business sales' type Estate Agents.

Meridian - 5th April 2013
RTA (Business Consultants) Limited - 2nd November 2012
Preferred Commercial Limited - 18th February 2013

Need to check any other agent?  eMail us or make an FOI request to the OFT

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Property Ombudsman - raising complaints

The Property Ombudsman is one of the Redress Schemes brought about by the changes in the Estate Agents Act in 2008.

As of October 2008, any Estate Agent who deals with residential property ('residential property' being any property where all or part of it is used as a dwelling) were legally bound to join a scheme.

A number of complaints were made to Trading Standards because RTA had not joined a Redress Scheme and, in September last year, RTA joined The Property Ombudsman (TPOS).

Many of our members felt that this was a hollow victory because TPOS had indicated that they were unable to look at any complaints where the contract had been signed prior to the September 2011 joining date.

However, following discussions with TPOS, we were informed that they will look at complaints about RTA's Complaints Handling Process, regardless of when the contract was signed.  Of course, your complaint needs to have been raised after the date that RTA joined TPOS and you will also need to progress your complaint through TPOS within their published timescales.

Most of you will know that we always suggest that the first step in any dispute is to document a formal written complaint to the company involved - how else can the issues be resolved amicably?  However, more often than not, an unsatisfactory response was received from RTA (usually Paul O'Reilly) which did not mirror the approach documented in RTA's complaint handling procedure or no response was received at all.

Well, now there is 'redress' and members have been successfully taking complaints to The Ombudsman.

You'll find details of the complaints process here -

The complaints form and guidance can be found in the list on the right.

eMail your complaint in the first instance to

Good luck

Monday, 23 April 2012

‘Pre-shopping advice’ for small businesses thinking of putting their premises up for sale

If you are thinking of selling your business you may want to advertise it yourself in a newspaper or specialist commercial property paper or you may be considering using an agent.

Selecting an Agent:

As with any service you are considering purchasing we would offer the following advice –

Try to get recommendations from people who have recently sold premises.

Check out any firms you are thinking of employing using the resources available to you (your trade association, the FSB, internet forums, etc).  

Use your common sense – offers of free valuations / free surveys / market appraisals etc will result in a sales rep visiting and talking to you about signing up with them to market your premises.

As with any other business dealings, get several valuations and make sure you are realistic about the state of the market and the appeal of your business. Do not automatically sign up with the agent that suggests the highest selling price can be achieved without giving this careful thought.

Check what exactly the agent will do to market the property – do they just put it on a website with minimal details available to potential buyers or do they produce detailed property particulars with all the information you would want to see if YOU were looking to buy a property? What about measurements, photos, floor plans? How is their website promoted? Did you know about it before they contacted you?

Check out how good the agent is at promoting premises for sale - Using your local knowledge find a property in your area with the Agent’s board up, or ask your contacts.  Check with the seller to see if they have had any interest via the Agent.
Imagine you are a potential buyer for that TYPE of business and do a general search on the internet (eg, look for that type of business for sale in the town you are in). After you do a general search go onto the agent’s website and search there. Did either search actually reveal the property particulars for the business you know they are supposed to be marketing? If you had any problems finding the premises (and bearing in mind that you KNEW that it was on the market), do you think other people will find yours?

If you do your research and select a few agents to speak to make sure you find out BEFORE you sign exactly what their terms are. Do not take a sales rep’s word for it, they know what you want to hear and may be tempted to say things they cannot deliver.  If there is any dispute the written terms will usually out-weigh anything the rep may have said.

Before you sign up:

It is vital to remember that as a business you do not have a right to cancel a contract (unlike consumers, who, in some instances, have a ‘cooling off period’). Once you agree to the contract you are bound by the terms (except in very limited circumstances and only if you take a case to Court and they decide otherwise), so read the terms thoroughly and make sure you understand the full implications before signing. In particular check the terms to see if they clarify the matters below:

Does the contract indicate what service the agent will provide?

Do the terms look straight forward or are they overly complicated?

Does the contract confirm that the Agent has valued the premises (if not, why not?)?

What fees do you have to pay upfront?

How long will you be locked into the contract with no chance of ending it?

When and in what circumstances can you end the agreement?
If do not want the contract to continue after the initial set period you MUST write to the Agent to confirm termination, send the letter  recorded delivery and  keep copy.  Keep a copy of the tracking confirmation. Otherwise they WILL chase you for money if the business is sold (as they will still have sole selling rights while this continuing contract is in place). 

When and in what circumstances can the Agent terminate the agreement? [Does the Agent say he can terminate the agreement for any reason whatsoever? Does he then expect you to pay a fee whether or not he has upheld his side of the agreement?

What fees do you have to pay if you or the Agent end the agreement? [If the agent suggests that you agree to a higher termination fee ask yourself why].

What happens if you find a buyer yourself, do you have to pay the Agent’s fee? If the contract says the Agent has sole selling rights then you will still have to pay them even if they did not introduce you to the buyer.

Is there a term relating to the need for you to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the premises? You must have commissioned an EPC (ordered it from an approved Energy Assessor) before the premises can be marketed and you have 7 days to get it. You do have a further 21 days following that to obtain the certificate but after that time is up the Agent will not be able to market the property if there is no EPC. If they cannot market the property they are going to want to end the agreement and may seek to charge you fees]
Are the written terms printed on both sides of the agreement?  Have you read and understood them all, and are you happy with them? Do not agree to them unless you are sure.

If you have any concerns do not be persuaded to sign anything – ask for a copy of the terms (get the rep to write ‘sample’ across all copies of them) – and study them at your leisure. There is no need to sign up on the day and if you are being distracted or feel rushed stop and ask yourself why you are being put in this position.

It is not uncommon for small businesses so say that they were reluctant to sign up on the day but found themselves committing to the contract anyway and later regretted it. If you have nagging doubts there really is no need to commit on the day, make some further checks and take time to think about it properly.


If you pay by credit card you may have more protection should things go wrong. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 makes the credit card company jointly liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation if the goods or services cost more than £100 and you are an unincorporated business (a sole trader or partnership).

Energy Performance Certificates
Before you put your business premises on the market you MUST commission (order) an Energy Performance Certificate (an EPC) from an Approved Energy Assessor. You can find more details about this on the DCLG website at

You must make available the valid EPC to anyone requesting written details and to anyone who wishes to view the property. There are very limited circumstances when you do not have to do this – for more details please see   
Unlikely though it is, if you get an offer from someone who has not viewed, you must make the EPC available to them at that time (if that is the earliest opportunity for you to provide it). 

At the time of sale you must provide the purchaser with the valid EPC. 

Trading Standards North West Property Work Group

Saturday, 21 April 2012

RTA vs Guy Davies ~ Permission To Appeal GRANTED

In the case of RTA (Business Consultants) Limited versus Mr Davies.

As many of you know, Mr Davies had put in an application for permission to appeal and we were awaiting the decision of the Lord or Lady in the High Court.

Guy has received notification today via an Order from the court and permission to appeal has been granted.

We'll keep you posted on the next steps.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

2012 Budget

The 2012 Budget is available in full from HM Treasury website here -

RTA vs Guy Davies / Trading Standards

RTA vs Guy Davies

Guy has forwarded an email from the High Court in London which states that his appeal is awaiting allocation to a Lord/Lady Justice and that this will take 4-5 weeks.

For those of you who are relying (whether in full or in part) on the consumer argument, this is an important case to follow.

All cases relying on the consumer argument have been stayed since the January appeal case.  If you think your case should be stayed then please write to RTA in the first instance and ask them to agree to the stay.  Our members have so far been unable to get RTA to agree to stay a case.  If this happens in your case then you will need to apply to the court.

It makes no sense to carry these cases all the way to a hearing just for them to be stayed at that stage.

If you need assistance in drafting letters, please let us know.

The £7,000 costs awarded to RTA at the appeal are to be appealed through the new High Court appeal case and Judge MacKenzie at Worcester has provided some notation from the CPR which will help with this.

In addition, Guy will also be attempting to recover those costs through his Small Claims case.  Correspondence suggests that RTA were not at first aware of the implications of the fraudulent misrepresentation argument but will now withdraw the case rather than answer that claim.  We'll keep you posted on this.

Thankyou to those of you who have forwarded your letters where RTA claim that Guy only owed them £500.  As most of you know, RTA were claiming more than £2,000.

Trading Standards

A number of you have received correspondence from RTA where they claim that Staffordshire Trading Standards are investigating CEBTA.

This is not true.

RTA made a complaint to Trading Standards but no action was taken.

Although it is unclear exactly what the complaint was, it appears that RTA are unhappy that you make donations to the Group.

On 13th March 2012, Dawn made Mr O'Reilly (of RTA) aware that no investigation was taking place.

On 19th March 2012 Staffordshire Trading Standards formally confirmed that no investigation was taking place.

If any of you receive correspondence after the 19th March which makes this claim then please pass your letter to us and a formal complaint will be made to Trading Standards.

Monday, 27 February 2012

More stories from the Mirror

After a brief absence, it's time to welcome back RTA "business sales specialists".

We revealed last summer how the firm's manager Ceri Edwards admitted its contracts were "draconian" and "heavily weighted in RTA's favour".

Previously we've told of clients whose businesses were not sold but RTA still demanded huge fees. Now Manchester pizza shop owner Hiwa Ali is celebrating after being sued by RTA when he refused to pay £3,000 plus VAT on top of his £117.50 upfront fee. After a brief absence, it's time to welcome back RTA "business sales specialists". We revealed last summer how the firm's manager Ceri Edwards admitted its contracts were "draconian" and "heavily weighted in RTA's favour".

Previously we've told of clients whose businesses were not sold but RTA still demanded huge fees. Now Manchester pizza shop owner Hiwa Ali is celebrating after being sued by RTA when he refused to pay £3,000 plus VAT on top of his £117.50 upfront fee.

The firm wrote to him saying: "The agreement was to remain in force until revoked in writing by registered or recorded delivery and at no time have you sought to withdraw our instructions and therefore the agreement remained in force. "We attempted to make arrangements for a party to view only to be informed that a sale of the business has now taken place."

 But Mr Ali became fed up with Stockport-based RTA precisely because no one had come to view his shop, blaming the firm for valuing it at £48,500 when he suggested £36,000 was nearer the market price.

 With the help of a friend, Mr Ali, who has poor English, launched a counterclaim for £5,000, saying "it must have been obvious" to RTA's sales rep that he did not understand what he was signing.

 His friend pleaded: "Four and a half months after signing the contract, Mr Ali was in dire financial straits but there had not been a single viewing or offer for City Pizza. "Since RTA did not sell the shop, the defence submits Mr Ali does not owe RTA £3,000."

Result: RTA's claim, and Mr Ali's counterclaim, were both thrown out.

Andrew Penman of The Mirror

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Meet the team

Bit odd that the 'client testimonial' was from a buyer and not a seller....

To what extent is the number of businesses on an agent's books a reliable indicator of their reputation?

Here's an interesting question I found on the website today.

"To what extent is the number of businesses on an agent's books a reliable indicator of their reputation?"

Interesting isn't it?

So, if I Sell Em Quick Limited has 250 businesses on it's books and Sold Within 48 Hours Limited has 2,500 businesses on it's books, would you assume Sold Within 48 Hours Limited to be the better agent?

Here's what some of the UK's leading Business Transfer Agents had to say about it:-

"It's not the number of listings an agent has that's important; it's his track record on the number of businesses he's sold.
"You could have an agent with 100 listings but who's sold 90 of them. Or you could have an agent with 1,000 listings but has only made 100 sales.
"It's not the volume of listings, it's the back-up service they're able to provide.

"If an agent has 7,000 businesses on their books, how many days are they actually devoting to each client? That works out at about 10-15 minutes dedicated to each client every year, and if they have a sale going through they won't be devoting any time.
"It's always an issue with agents: they want enough businesses to sell to give the buyer choice, but eventually the workload can become too much so they have to start employing people to deal with it."

"The advantage of having a lot of listings is that it tends to attract a lot of traffic, so it's like the circulation of a newspaper: if it has a lot of readers it improves the business' exposure and I think that makes a big difference. It also means the agent has the financial strength to advertise more widely and expose the business to the widest audience."

"In my opinion the more listings a business broker has can often mean the less they care about individual owners and selling their business. Some large business brokers only sell a small percentage of the businesses they list, and it can be the case that one 'negotiator' is handling the sale of 100 or more businesses!
"On the other hand, some one-man band operators offer a very poor quality of service.
"The number of listings has nothing to do with how effective an agent will be in selling a business and should not be a consideration for a business owner looking for an agent."

"You can look at it both ways. Some agents have pages and pages of listings, which looks impressive, but how many do they actually sell?
"Conversely, it can look like you're a big player in the market if you have lots of listings. For anyone looking for an agent, it's not the number of listings they have, but comparables on what they've sold recently.
"If I came across an agent with thousands of businesses I'd think I'm just another number to them. How much attention are they going to pay me?
"If you go with an agent with a manageable number of listings, you'll have some personal attention – which is what vendors like."

You can see the full details here

Some interesting points.

"..the more listings a business broker has can often mean the less they care about individual owners and selling their business.."

"If an agent has 7,000 businesses on their books, how many days are they actually devoting to each client?"

"The number of listings has nothing to do with how effective an agent will be in selling a business"

So, just because an agent has lots of businesses on its books, doesn't necessarily mean that they are good at selling.  But we already knew this, didn't we?  Learnt the hard way.

You might be interested in Ceri Edward's "7 tips if you are thinking of selling your business".  In view of the comments above, point 5 should be expanded...

E)  Find out how many businesses your agent sold in the last 12 months compared to how many businesses the took on

RTA vs Guy Davies ~ update

RTA vs Guy Davies - Judgement transcript now available

For those of you who were looking for the details of the Judgement of the appeal hearing in the case of RTA vs Guy Davies (11th January 2012), the transcript  is now available in the CEBTA Members Area here - just follow the link.

You'll also find an update with regards to Guy's appeal of this decision.

"Consumer Law" ~ statements from RTA

A number of defendants and clients have received a notification from RTA entitled "Consumer Law" which provides some brief information about the above case.

In this document, RTA make the following statement
"...any future case where the defence is "I am a consumer" will be dismissed and judgement will be awarded to RTA"

This statement is misleading as a number of you have asserted from this that this 'dismissal' is automatically done by the court and that you will automatically get a Judgement in default.

This is not the case...

In almost all of your cases (for those of you who are in the middle of court proceedings) you have not just used the "I am a consumer" argument as you have many other issues - so this will not apply to you.

However, the court can make any decision it sees fit without a hearing.  Not just about this decision but about anything at all, as defined in the Civil Procedure Rules, etc.  But, in order for any defence to be dismissed it would be usual for the claimant to make an application to the court to do this.  The court would then make a decision but it's important to remember that the overriding objective of the court is to be fair to both parties.  So it's highly unlikely that your defence would be automatically dismissed or that you will  automatically get a judgement in default.

But if you are worried about this then contact the CEBTA people who will help you make an application to the court to amend your defence - it's as simple as that!

You might like to email this "Consumer Law" document to Jayne Stubbs at Stockport Trading Standards along with your views on whether or not you thought it was misleading, and a summary of your story.

When is a Landmark Case not a Landmark Case?

It is interesting to note that RTA refer to this as a 'landmark case'.  This author is wondering why RTA failed to recognise the case of RTA vs Gill Draper (which was also a decision made in a Higher Court) as a landmark case....

After receiving the decision in the Appeals Court of Judge De Mille in the case of RTA vs Draper where Judge De Mille agreed that the client was a consumer under these circumstances, RTA still argued that this wasn't the case.

In any case the decision of Judge Rundell in RTA vs Guy Davies is currently being appealed and you should inform your judge of this fact in your hearings.

Guy will keep us informed of progress.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I want to sell my business ~ what should I do?

There are plenty of business transfer agents (or business brokers) out there who are not just in it for the upfront fee or withdrawal fee.  In fact, most business transfer agents are as keen to sell your business as you are.

So what should you do?

Many Business Brokers are members of the Federation of Business Brokers.  Take a look at the FBB website for details of their members.

Also, try the Business Transfer Agents website.

Is the broker asking for an upfront fee?

If the Broker wants an upfront fee, ask what it's for.

If it's an advance payment for advertising, well that's fair enough, isn't it?  The quicker your business goes on the market then the more prodpective buyers get to see it.  And a £500 contribution towards advertising should be more than enough to cover advertising costs for at least the first 12 months.

If it's not entirely clear what you're paying for then perhaps you ought not to be paying it!

Some Brokers want an upfront fee "to show you are commited to selling your business".  Errr, really?!?  You want to pay big bucks to show YOUR commitment?!?  In the cold light of day, away from the super-salesman speak, it doesn't make sense, does it?  But you'd be surprised by how many people fall for it...err, I mean, show their commitment in this way.

Is the broker asking for a withdrawal fee?

Well, if you didn't pay an amount for advertising at the beginning of the contract then it's probably fair that you might need to contribute to advertising costs when you terminate the contract.  Consider what those costs might have been during the period of the contract though - is the withdrawal fee extravagant compared to what the broker actually paid in advertising costs.

Most medium sized brokers with at least 100 businesses on their books will be paying a few pounds per month to advertise on the Daltons Weekly and the same again on  If they have their own website then they have the costs in running that too.  And, obviously, there will be costs in managing your account internally.  Most Brokers don't advertise in printed media anymore - there's not many people who don't use the internet these days.

When does the broker get paid?

Here's the deal, in my view at least.  The broker should be paid if they find you a buyer and the business is sold.  Not hard to understand is it?

So, if you use more than one agent (which, as they all advertise in the same places would, in my view, be a waste of effort) then you might expect to pay a bigger commission to the 'winning' agent.

If you're on a 'sole selling' agreement then you can only use one agent.

What does the contract says will happen if you sell the business yourself, close it, or decide not to sell?

Well your broker has spent all that money advertising your business, it's only fair that he should be re-imbursed.  So pay him for his advertising.

No, not the £22,000 he's claiming in 'lost opportunity'....just the advertising costs.

In summary, aim for the following contract

1. Pay an upfront fee if it is for advertising.  Make sure it says in the contract that it is for advertising - if you're not sure that it does then get the agent to write it on the contract and both of you initial it.  Aim for no more than £500.

2. Pay a withdrawal fee if you didn't pay an upfront fee, and certainly not more than £500 for each year you've been with your broker.

3. Pay commission ~ when the business sells ~ to the broker who found the buyer.

If the business closes, you decide not to sell, you sell to a buyer that the broker didn't find ~ expect to pay for any advertising the broker did.

And, most importantly, if you agree terms with your broker or your broker tells you what they are going to do, make sure that's what it says in the contract.  If it's a boring and long contract then make a few notes on the back of the contract, sign and date it and get your broker to do the same.  Write PTO on the front of the contract.

If your broker won't do this.....start to wonder why.....

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Who are Totally Web Wise

A few people have asked who Totally Web Wise are as they seem to pop up a few times where RTA are concerned.

The author found this, posted on the What Consumer forums:-
"I am the aforesaid Ceri Edwards and yes I am also a director of Totallywebwise the web design and build business based in Swansea.
Here however is where I must take issue with your advice. Totallywebwise has NEVER had a client other than RTA, so has NEVER asked or demanded any money from ANYONE AT ALL. TWW only works for RTA, as it was set up to provide IT and web solutionms for that company alone.

You say a 'friend' has had dealings with TWW, who have demanded money. OK, get this friend to call me, and if TWW has demanded money from him or her, I will appologise in public and cancel the debt.

Over to you."

The comment was in response to an entry by poster sandyshoes ~ you can see the full link here

What we find interesting is that RTA claim to market our businesses on many websites and yet only one of the ones they use (according to small claims evidence provided to date) isn't actually owned by them in one way or the other.

So here's what we found that Totally Web Wise currently have registered:-

Wow - certainly looks like RTA are set on world domination!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Does an agent get paid, no matter what happens?

From The Times
June 20, 2008
Brief encounter: Does an estate agent get paid - whatever happens?

By Mark Loveday

Q I recently instructed an estate agent to sell my property. The conditions say that I am liable to pay 1.5per cent commission if the agents introduce a buyer who is “ready willing and able” to purchase even if I “subsequently withdraw from the sale” for any reason. I don't quite understand how long these terms apply. If I just decide to withdraw my property from the market for no reason other than changing my mind, can I do that or will I still be liable to pay commission? And if I find a private buyer, will I still have to pay the agent?

A The circumstances in which an estate agent is paid commission will vary according to the precise terms in the agreement. As every estate agent uses slightly different wording, it is sometimes quite hard to say whether commission is payable or not.

The basic rule is that commission is paid only where there is a completed sale of the property, not where the agent merely introduces a potential buyer. However, estate agents often try to say in their terms and conditions that they will be paid if there is a buyer “ready willing and able” to exchange contracts at a certain price. If there is such a term, you may have to pay commission if you unilaterally decide to back out after a buyer makes a firm and unqualified offer.
It is quite common for disputes to arise about whether the agent gets paid for a sale after its agency is over. The issue was dealt with very recently by the Court of Appeal in the case of Foxtons Ltd v Pelkey Bicknell. In that case, the agent showed a potential buyer around a house in Twickenham in July 2005. The potential buyer later viewed the property through another agent in October 2005 and eventually bought the house for £1.1 million. The court decided that Foxtons should not get any commission. Although it had first introduced the buyer to the property, Foxtons had not been the “effective cause” of the sale itself.

An agent therefore generally will not be able to claim commission if you find a buyer privately or someone comes back long after the agreement is over and makes a successful offer for the property.

The writer is a barrister at Tanfield Chambers. E-mail your questions to:

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Justice prevails for the Tamworth 2

Story reported in The Grocer by Jac Roper

"As I write this Jaswinder Singh Dhesi and his wife Sukvinder Kaur are celebrating in Tamworth following a court victory with business transfer agents RTA (which the Daily Mirror's investigations team says stands for 'road traffic accident'. Just Google to read all about it). 

The couple's store was on the market with RTA for two years. There was little interest so they took it off the market and are still running the shop. RTA waited seven months and then informed Sukvinder that she was in breach of contract and wanted £12,000.".................

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Free speech for the anonymous

One of our members has brought to our attention a forum posting that Mr Ceri Edwards (Business Development Director of RTA) has placed on the UK Business Forums website - you can see the full post here

Mr Edwards initiated a forum topic on how government agencies should be helping people who want to purchase current businesses (as well as new startups). All jolly enterprising.

A poster who calls himself TheDC is obviously rather disgruntled with RTA and has used the forum to voice his opinion of RTA. He notes "They have a withdrawal fee, which can be a number of £thousands, that YOU have to pay if THEY decide to pull out of the contract. They also have their commission fee if they sell your business, which is fair enough, but if they don’t sell your business and you question the withdrawal fee then they suddenly accuse you of alsorts and ask for the commission – which is usually MANY thousands.". This is one of the biggest issues that members of our group (and no doubt, a lot of RTA clients like TheDC who don't know about our group yet) have with RTA. It isn't good enough that they want up-front fees, or paying a commission when they find a buyer, but they also want paying when they decide to end the contract and claim commission under onerous clauses when they don't sell your business.

Mr Edwards later re-posts in answer to what he calls "a commenter who has seized the opprotunity to vent his angst". Some of the more interesting points he raises are that he agrees "freedom of speech is a Human Right" but then goes on to say "that anonymity is the scourge of the online blog".

He also invites the poster to contact RTA and enter into discussion.

I can only assume the poster won't do this. And is it any wonder?

Mr Edwards is not an advocate of the anonymous blogger.  He has a whole article dedicated to it on the RTA website.  But is it any wonder that these people hide behind their pseudonyms when, should they raise their heads over the parapet, RTA shout LIBEL ACTION from the rooftops?

Let's just look at the case of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) who had RTA listed as a scam company on their website. RTA threatened legal action and the FSB have taken it off.....for now.

A number of RTA clients have placed their stories on the Mirror's Penmann and Sommerlad blog - we've all read them and the Mirror blog has been paramount in getting this support group together - but those that used their true names have been blighted with the threat of action for libel.  Even the Mirror investigators had their own little dance with the RTA libel action threats.

One of our own members, a single mother of 2, posted her own sorry story on the Mirror blog.  Later, during correspondence with RTA, RTA chose not to focus on the issues she raised with the service they provided stating that she "did not have a leg to stand on" but rather focused on her "slandering remarks" on the Mirror website and informing her that they had instructed their solicitor in order to commence legal action against her for libel.

Their solicitor, Ruth Collard of Messrs Cart-Ruck, must be a very busy woman.

It is unlikely that they will get very far though. They will not be able to show any economic loss resulting from her comments, and there are numerous other comments and public information on similar sites already.  And this course of action is usually prohibitively expensive and as such will require a huge financial commitment from them.

So it's likely to be just more bluff.

How do you think RTA should resolve their issues with all this bad press?

I personally think they should first of all provide a proper service, have better trained surveyors who do actually know how to value a business, and deliver what their sales reps promise (or better educate them in the limitations of RTA's service and contracts).  They need to take on board the findings of their recent court case losses and review their contracts to make them fair and equal.  And they need to put a bit more effort into maintaining contact with their clients - in a recent court case Mr Edwards of RTA stated that they were far too busy to properly correspond with ALL the clients they had.....and yet he has plenty of time to post articles in forums and other websites.....

Friday, 16 April 2010

RTA's new contracts - January 2010

Clause 13 of RTA's contract circa January 2010 says:

"I/We agree that in the event of a dispute arising between us from this contract then I/We agree to keep the dispute private and confidential between me/us and my/our professional legal advisors.  I/We further agree that I/we will not place or permit any other person, firm or company to place any dispute in the public domain (excpt for records required by statute), nor will I/we make public or consent or enourage a third party to make public, any defamatory, disparaging or derogatory remarks about RTA, it's employees, directors or shareholders.  Neither I/we nor anyone acting on my/our behalf shall pursue or intiate any complaint, allegation or process against RTA, it's employees, directors or shareholders for any matter arising out of this contract."

So, if you have an issue with the service that RTA are providing, RTA are attempting to stop you raising the issue with them through this clause, and also stop you going through the courts.  In addition, you can't tell anyone that you have problems or pass opinion on the service they provide.

Section 7 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1977 says "(3A)Liability for breach of obligations arising under section 2 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (implied terms about title etc. in certain contracts for the transfer of the property in goods) cannot be excluded or restricted by reference to any such term."

Article 10 of The Human Rights Act 1998 allows for us to express our opinions without fear of penalty.  Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Justice prevails - a win against RTA in the courts!

Majid Ahari, a Chartered Surveyor from Hampshire, placed his business for sale with RTA.  RTA valued his business at £713k.  Majid checked the figure with his Bank Manager who valued the business at no more than £250k.  When Majid tried to re-negotiate the commission RTA refused.  So Majid cancelled the contract and RTA attempted to claim £4324 having only had Majid as a client for 3 weeks.

You can read all of Majid's story, up to his court hearing, here

Mr Ahari's case was heard at Southampton County Court on 9th April 2010.

Under questioning by the Judge, Mr Ceri Edwards, Business Development Manager of RTA, agreed that the contract lacks consideration for their clients.

On summing up, the Judge stated that the contract was ambiguous and 'strange' and that, as he understood it, it was set up in such a way that it allows RTA to take money from unwary clients but carry out no work (i.e. no advertising, no introducing clients to businesses) if they choose to.  On that basis, he dismissed the case.  Mr Edwards requested an appeal and the Judge declined his request.

Mr Edwards has requested that we remove Majid's full story of the court case, which we have done for now, but if you would like a copy, please contact us at

Friday, 9 April 2010

Where RTA spend their money

Recently Ceri Edwards, has not been too happy with what Google offer him.

In recent posts on forums on Google and Bling he complains that he spends £120,000 a year with Google and yet other websites, some of them new, rank higher than his own.

He claims that his company struggles in the rankings whilst other "SEO savvy charletons" rank higher.  I think this clearly misses the point of what SEO is all about - it's a fundamental to rankings.  Perhaps money can't buy you love after all?!?

However, it is his comments later on in the forum, in response to another contributor commenting on the Mirror blog, Mr Edwards states that he has over 8,000 clients and only some '16 or so' clients have jumped on the Mirror bandwagon because they didn't sell.

Obviously, as our little group now consists of almost 100 members, we know there are more than '16 or so' people who are having to fight RTA.  And that's only the ones in our little group - there must be even more out there who have succumbed to bullying tactics and paid up, or been thrown to the lions in RTA legal action.

Mr Edwards has also missed the point with his 'because they didn't sell' quip.  It isn't the fact that RTA failed to sell that's the big issue - although that is bad enough - it's the fact that RTA believe they are entitled to £1000s in withdrawal fees (when they were the party to withdraw) and commission fees even though they failed to uphold their part of the bargain.

Perhaps some of that £120,000 might be better used in advertising OUR businesses rather than their own, in providing a better customer service for business owners and a complaints procedure which enatils a little more than completely ignoring our correspondence!!

Rant of the day now over....

Majid ** WIN **

Majid Ahari, a Chartered Surveyor from Hampshire, placed his business for sale with RTA. RTA valued his business at £713k. Majid checked the figure with his Bank Manager who valued the business at no more than £250k. When Majid tried to re-negotiate the commission RTA refused. So Majid cancelled the contract and RTA attempted to claim £4324 having only had Majid as a client for 3 weeks.

You can read all of Majid's story, up to his court hearing, here

By Majid Ahari

Strictly without Prejudice

Following my nightmare but subsequent jubilation with RTA on Friday 09/04/2010 it is my pleasure to summarise my court hearing for all of you as follows;

I arrived at Southampton County Court by 13.30 P.M but there was no sign of RTA's representative.

The Court receptionist received a call from RTA's representative, she informed the caller that Mr Ahari had arrived in court and not to worry, we would wait.  The RTA representative was late, finally arriving at court at 1.50pm. He signed in and then came over to make pleasantries with me but I declined to join in.

He went away and five minutes before court hearing came back to me and asked to have a word with me.

I was surprised and we went to one of the private rooms of the Court.

He introduced himself and immediately produced an RTA business card declaring himself as Mr Ceri Edwards, the Business Development Manager of RTA (in an email at a later Mr Edwards described himself as the Business Development Director).

Following some mumbling, he asked me if we could 'do a deal'.  I was shocked but I told him it was too late. Besides, I had already made an offer to RTA a year ago of £500 and they did not accept it.

Mr Edwards said that the previous offer and declination didn't matter and for me to make an offer so he could relay it to the RTA office for acceptance.  If RTA accepted then we would have a deal and there would be no further need to go into Court.

I accepted this and offered £300 but just at that moment we were summoned to court and Mr Edwards was unable to call his office.

Inside the court room the Honourable Judge Brown received us. The Judge was very relaxed and polite.

The Judge then described the court proceedings indicating that this is a small claim hearing. He then said to Mr Edwards that he presumed Mr Edwards has been in one of these hearings before and Mr Edwards confirmed this. He then asked if I had and I told him I had not.

He had all my correspondences spread out on his desk in front of him and I felt a little sorry for him because of the volume!  But I was happy with mine and the ladies (Jane, Dawn and Gill) efforts as he had all the information he needed for my case.

The Honourable Judge Grand started the hearing by asking Mr Edwards to put his case forward.  He did, by referring to clauses of my contract with RTA and kept emphasizing that "Mr Ahari is guilty of signing the contract", etc, etc.

The Judge was listening patiently and was also taking notes. Mr Edwards, very passionately, pointed out my guilt (i.e. in signing the RTA contract).

The Judge asked for a copy of the RTA contract to read and whilst studying the conditions of RTA’s contract he had a puzzled expression.  He eventually told Mr Edwards that the contract was very strange and that he thought it appeared that RTA lacked consideration for the interests of any of their clients during their contractual dealings with RTA.  As he understood it, the RTA contract is set up in such a way that it allows RTA to take money from unwary clients but carry out no work (i.e. no advertising, no introducing clients to businesses) if they chose too.

Mr Edwards agreed and admitted that there existed some ambiguity in their contract terms and conditions.

That was the break I needed!  I had all my correspondence filed, labelled and had a copy ready for the Judge. The Judge now asked me to present my case.  I immediately jumped on Consumer Protection Acts and brought to his attention the case of RTA vs Draper.  I explained the case to him and indicated that RTA ignored the rights of the defendant in that case by not giving them cancellation rights, etc, etc. The Judge was very interested and indicated that he will read the case.  I then offered him the Daily Mirror blogs and showed him the reported cases of the clients of RTA (all in same predicament as me) that had been investigated by Penmann and Somerladd.  I also mentioned that the Federation of Small Businesses had placed RTA under their Scam Section on their website.  I then detailed the subject of all my correspondences to RTA and their lack of professionalism in respect of responses to my queries (this was an idea of Jane's - well done Jane!).  Then I had my defence sheet ready which I went through it.  By the time I had finished I think the Judge was all too aware of all the reports regarding RTA's dealings with their clients!

Whilst I was presenting my case, Mr Edwards appeared to me to be very uneasy and he interrupted a number of times - the Judge told him politely to be quiet and that he would have his say eventually.  The Judge asked Mr Edwards about the Draper case, and Mr Edwards admitted that it was a Consumer Protection Act case and that the defendant had won.  However, he also noted that RTA had hundreds of other cases that they HAD won to date.  I believe that statement by Mr Edwards regarding the number of RTA’s court cases shocked the Judge - he appeared to be quite concerned.  Then Mr Edwards admitted that not only does RTA’s contract lack consideration for their clients but also that they are too busy to correspond appropriately to all their clients! The Judge noted down all of Mr Edwards statements.

The Honourable Judge then asked me if, in my first meeting with RTA agent on 20th February 2009, did I understand the terms and conditions of the contract which I was signing?  I told him I did not.  He asked if the contract was explained to me clearly?  I told him it was not and I added that the whole meeting lasted only 20 minutes and the agent was in such a hurry to get the cheque from me and he was kept diverting my attention away from the contract.  The Judge noted it all.

Then he asked about the turnover and profits of my company.  I could not remember exactly and told him estimated figures.  On hearing my figures, Mr Edwards appeared to be very happy and excited.

Mr Edwards then asked the Judge to allow him to ask me some questions, which the Judge allowed.  His questioning went something like this;

Mr Edwards - "Mr Ahari, when you are corresponding with us, you put designated letters of MRICS, FCIOB after your name. What do they present?"

Me - "Ah!. Before I answer that, are you admitting that you had some correspondence from me? If so, why have you not responded to them to date? Is it not law to reply to all correspondances?!

Mr Edwrads - "I refer to my previous remarks. I am not responsible for paper work in the RTA office. "

I then told him that MRICS is (Member of Royal institute of Chartered Surveyors) and FCIOB means Fellow member of Chartered institution of Building.

Mr Edwards then noted that he had already established that I am a Chartered Surveyor and he also noted that  I have been in the Building and Civil Engineering industry for 25 years.

But one thing he did not realise was that this proved our point - that I am not a business sales person but a Civil Engineers/builder.  I think judge noticed that.

Mr Edwards stated that if I am Chartered Surveyor and have 25 years experience of running a successful business, then how come I did not read their contract and understand it at my first meeting with their agent on 20th February 2010?

My answer was simple; I might be academically successful but I am not successful with my business.  If I was successful with my business then did Mr Edwards think I would allow my company to fail?

Mr Edwards did not answer and moved to a new topic.  He produced a couple of sheets of paper and, whilst brandishing them at me, asked me why I had told the Judge that RTA's agent did not look at my previous years accounts when he valued the business, and yet he had a copy here.

My answer was simple.  Yes he was correct, the RTA agent did not consider my accounts when valueing my business.  And, if the documents are my accounts, then I must have provided them to RTA at a much later date when I was requesting that RTA reduce their fee.  I then asked why RTA had not sent me the documents prior to the court hearing as is required by law.

Mr Edwards did not like my answer and told me that his agent had worked for RTA for five years and that he is a very decent and honourable man - he sasked if I was calling his agent a charlatan?

I told him that I was not calling him anything but by the same token was he implying that I was a charlatan?

Mr Edwards merely replied, "Not at all."

Mr Edwards again produced a paper with his agent's version of our previous company’s turnover and profit margin.  I have no recollection of seeing that paperwork previously.  He said that I had told the Judge that the turnover of my Company was £1.2M with a 4% profit but that the statement from his agent showed a turnover of £2.5M and a 10% profit margin.  He asked "Which one is it?".  At this point, he was so full of himself and was acting like a glorified Judge - he had to make apologises to the Judge for taking over the court which made the Judge laugh.

Again I had the answer.  I asked him if he were surprised that I had given wrong figures to Judge - given that he had all my contract details, and for most of last year I have been asking him for a copy of this information.  I asked him why he had not supplied the information to me.  For the court and the Judge, I referred to my letters dated 16/02/10 and 18/02/10 where I specifically asked for relevant information.  I then gave my apologies to the Honourable Judge for providing the wrong turnover figures.  Mr Edwards said "but you had them" and I responded that I had but, as I had already told the court, it had been necessary to send them to my Insolvency Practitioner when my business collapsed.

The Honourable Judge agreed with my statement.  Mr Edwards quickly removed his 'evidence'.  I emphasized that I had supplied the court and RTA with all the relevant paper work before the hearing but that RTA had not.  The Judge said he was aware of that fact.

** Please note, this is very important. By law, I could if I chose to, not reply to any of Mr Edwards questions because Mr Edwards did not present the relevant document either to me or to the court prior to the hearing. The law requires or dictates that all parties must send all the relevant documents not only to court but also to each other prior to case hearing. I asked RTA for these documents on numerous occasions and they did not provide them. This is one of their tricks; they want to surprise you in the court. **

Then the Judge asked me if I had any questions to put to Mr Edwards, which I had.  The Judge also had a copy of the 24 questions.  He read through them and notified me that some of them were irrelevant but insisted that question 4 (asking RTA where they had advertised my business, what magazines, news papers etc (another great idea of Jane, thank you) during 3 weeks of our contract with them.) should be asked.  Mr Edwards answered "Honestly, no where sir, we have done nothing on the sale of Mr Ahari’s company following cancellation of his contract."

That was the end of the hearing and the Judge told us that it was time to make his judgement.

He notified Mr Edwards that on the basis of their ambiguous contract conditions which lacked any consideration for RTA clients and also the failure of RTA's agent in explaining the conditions of the contract, and simply overpricing my business, he would credit me the claim of claimant and, for the aforementioned reasons, he dismissed the case.

I was speechless but very relieved.

The Honourable Judge then asked me where I came from ("other than Iran", he joked).  I told him I travelled from Portsmouth where my office is.  He asked me if I wanted to claim any expenses and I said "no, I just want RTA off of my back".  He accepted.

Mr Edwards asked the Judge’s permission to appeal but the Judge refused.  Mr Edwards again insisted and reading from his RTA notes, tried to persuade the Judge.  The Judge wrote Mr Edwards argument down and then informed Mr Edwards that he could answer his first two points (which he did) but that his last point was wasting his time.

Finally I had my reward.  In fighting these nasty people for fourteen months, I never gave up.  One thing I noticed with RTA was their lack of correspondence and communications.  They like to threaten and bully you but when you fight back, at the last minute before court hearings, they want make deals with you.  They know that their contract terms and conditions are unfair and unethical and no consideration has been given to their clients.  Signing their contract allows them not only to take your money but also, if they chose, to do nothing for you or the sale of your business.

My advise to you all is TO FIGHT and never give up.  They know they are wrong.  There are a lot of good and decent people like Gill, Jane and Dawn around who can help you as they helped me with my fight (for which I am forever grateful to these ladies).  Furthermore I am grateful to the Daily Mirror, especially to Mr Penman and his colleagues.  Finally I wish good luck to all the victims of this monstrous company and if I can assist any of you out there against them please contact me via

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Red Hand Rule

The powerpoint (written by the law lecturer) refers to the 'Red Hand Rule' and that it can be useful to argue that onerous contract terms should have been brought to the attention of RTA customers.

Powerpoint Presentation

Excerpt from Article:



[This article analyses case law relating to the red hand rule. In particular, there is an examination of the decision of the High Court in Toll V Alphapharm Pty Ltd. The judgment of the court signals a clear answer as to whether the red hand rule applies to signed documents. In this context, the authors also consider whether section 52 of the Trade Practices Act, and statutory provisions relating to unconscionability, are available to protect consumers against unusual or unreasonable clauses incorporated into signed contracts. Two recent cases involving share trader David Tweed are also analysed. ]


It is trite law that a party attempting to exclude or limit legal liability, by incorporating an exemption clause into an unsigned contract, must take reasonably sufficient steps (at or before the time of contracting) to give notice ofthe clause to the other party.'  The more unreasonable or unusual the clause, the greater the insistence by some judges that the clause be drawn to the attention of the other party in an explicit way, such as being printed in red ink with a red hand pointing to it.  The genesis of the so-called red hand rule is to be found in Spurling v Bradshaw Ltd where Lord Denning said:
The more unreasonable a clause is, the greater the notice which must be given of it. Some clauses would need to be printed in red ink with a red hand pointing to it before the notice could be held to be sufficient.

* Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Enterprise, Swinburne University of Technology. ** Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Enterprise (Hawthorn) & Faculty of Higher Education (Lilydale), Swinburne University of Technology. ' See Parker v South Eastern Railway Co {ISll) 2 CPD 416. ^[1956] 1 WLR461. ^[1956] 1WLR461,466.