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.....

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