Friday, 9 April 2010

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
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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 info@business-sales-agents-complaints.co.uk

4 comments:

Norman said...

yvette.rogers@sky.com

Hi
This is Yvette,
received letter from RTA to terminate my contract and charging me in the excess of £6000.00. Saying that financially it is not viable to continue advertising my business as I did not pay upfront fee. They have had my business on the books for 14 months without any viewings. I have complained consistently and have been abused over the phone to the degree I got angry and put the phone down. I was threatened that I was in breach of contract by discussing to anyone including my close friends the shocking, aggressive, intimidating way way in which I was treated it is another long story even to somenone in the office changing the first contract without permission and that is when everything started getting nasty. I want to go to court, bust must win and sort these people out,

Please Help, where do I start, they want their money in 28 days

HELP

Yvette

Anonymous said...

jenniferhau@hotmail.com

Dear sir/madam

I have a very simplier case to yours determining a termination fee of £4995 which I sign the contract without any warning or aware when I asked before signing. They did not tell me there is a termination fee. Now they are demanding and sending me to court. I own a sandwich snack shop and the price is very high at the market comparing what my accountant told me. I am very scared and afraid as they threaten me to take to court. They have done nothing and produce no one at all to view and so I phone them to terminated the contract and they said just write in, if the contract is standard why did they not tell me there is a termination fee when I call. Before I sign I ask about the termination fee and they said there is no and it is easy to terminate. They said the contract is standard.
Who is Gill, Jane and Dawn will they be able to help me
as my case is still continuing and they are threaten to take me to court, please reply as I am desperate to know what to do and if I do go to court what shall I bring. Looking forward to your reply

Anonymous said...

I have just signed with RTA and for the first time in my life did no research, and wish I had read your blogs first.
I signed on the 28/1/11 and paid £500 + vat up front and have a £1,000 buy out. It was never explained the years contract. I have now read the contract!!! and am scared at what I have let my self in for. I have decided to pay the £1,000 and get away from them but have noticed that if I sell to anyone who was interested during the time I have been with them I would still have to pay them the commission. Also there is no cooling off period which I suppose they could say has already gone.
any advice would be helpfull.
stephenie.s@ntlworld.com

Anonymous said...

i have been let down by rta,the canvasser that time john martin said the withdrawal fee is 5k and that is only payable if i come out of the agreement within 12 months..rta decided to take my property of the market when they couldnt sell the property which they had put it on the market for £990,000.When the property is only valued at 300 to 350k..Now rta are asking for withdrawel fee amount of 5k..which i have disputed..waiting for court hearing