Moaning about the poor legal service he'd received landed Philip Waymouth with a five-figure bill.
At loveMONEY, we are big advocates of kicking up a bit of a stink when you feel like you’ve been let down by a business.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a supermarket, a broadband provider or your mortgage lender ‒ should a firm fail to deliver the sort of service or product you’re expecting, then you should never stand for it.
Instead, it’s important that you stand up for yourself and complain.
But there are times when complaining can go badly, expensively wrong.
In fact, one such case has just emerged, where the complainant has ended up facing a £25,000 bill as a result.
Going too far
Philip Waymouth hired the solicitor firm Summerfield Brown to represent him in challenging a court order, for the fixed fee of £200.
It’s fair to say that he wasn’t thrilled with the performance of the firm though. And he didn’t stay quiet about his displeasure either, heading to the review website Trustpilot to lambast their performance.
Describing the firm as a “total waste of money” and a “scam solicitor”, Waymouth alleged that the lawyers had show little understanding for the law.
He continued: “You will learn more from forums, YouTube and the Citizens Advice website about your case, for free.”
However, it seems the firm was pretty hot on defamation law as they took Waymouth to the High Court over his claims, which has resulted in Waymouth being ordered to cough up a whopping £25,000 in damages.
Standing your ground
The Waymouth case is an important one because it should act as a reminder that no matter how infuriated you may be by the way a firm treats you, you need to be wary of what you can and cannot say due to the law.
Let’s be honest, publishing claims about a firm that are fairly clearly defamatory when the firm in question is a solicitor isn’t the greatest life decision you could make.
But it shouldn’t prevent you from fighting back when you are on the receiving end of shoddy treatment.
Understand your rights
It’s important here to be clear on precisely what your rights are, as well.
For example if you’ve bought a physical item then you likely have protection from the Consumer Rights Act.
This piece of legislation covers things like ensuring that the product you have bought is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
If it isn’t up to scratch in any of these areas, then you are entitled to make a claim which may mean getting the item replaced or else getting your money back.
Check out our piece on what the Consumer Rights Act means for you.
It certainly isn’t the only piece of consumer rights legislation though, so it’s worth doing your homework to see what you may or may not be covered by.
Complain directly first
Now it’s time to complain, and that will need to begin with the business in question.
You should outline exactly what the problem is and why you feel that you’ve been let down. If you have documentation that can support your case, then all the better.
It’s a good idea at this stage to have in your mind what you’d like to see happen. Are you hoping for the item to be replaced? Are you keen for an apology? Or do you think you deserve some sort of compensation?
Knowing what it will take for you to feel like your complaint has been successful is useful in keeping you focused, but it can also help you keep calm.
Part of the problem for Waymouth was that, in the words of the judge, he “tends to shoot wildly from the hip”.
In other words, he didn’t think things through enough, didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to come from his complaint, which is why he then got carried away and ended up in hot water himself.
You might like to look into making use of the services of a firm like Resolver when complaining. It’s absolutely free, provides template complaints and allows you to track the progress of your case.
I’ve used it myself and can vouch for how helpful it was.
Take it up the ladder
If the firm doesn’t put things right, then it’s time to see if you can take your complaint to a higher body.
This might be an Ombudsman ‒ for example with financial issues if the bank, insurer or whoever lets you down then you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
An Ombudsman can then look at the main facts about the case and make a ruling, perhaps ordering the business to provide a refund or even compensation.
There are all sorts of different Ombudsman in the UK, covering a wide range of areas, from property to furniture.
Alternatively, you might look to pursue the firm through the courts with a legal challenge.
Should I leave a negative review?
If you have been failed by a business then, of course, you are well within your rights to leave them a negative review, whether it’s on a retailer website, social media, Trustpilot or some other forum.
But it should go without saying that you need to provide an accurate review ‒ making defamatory claims is unlikely to go your way and could end up landing you in court.
Again, staying calm throughout the complaints process is so important.
Businesses are always more likely to be understanding of people who present their issues in a clear and dispassionate way, compared to those who rant and rave.
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