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Alex J.
Alex J., Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Solicitors 2 years plus PQE
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I am emailing on behalf of myself and my business partner.

Customer Question

I am emailing on behalf of myself and my business partner. We have a limited company which has spent the last 3 years helping UK manufacturers with business development and finding new markets for their products.

We have a dispute with a wipe manufacturer in Birmingham who agreed (written proof) to pay us a consultancy fee on work/orders recevied through our introductions. This agreement isn't in the form of a contract, however we do have confirmation on emails etc. He is now saying (after receiving orders) that he will not pay on 2 out of the 3 introductions!

Our understanding of our agreement was that we would receive a consultancy fee (%) for each and every order received from the customers for the lifetime of the customer order relationship. The percentage would be negotiated and decided depending on the size of the order and the profit margin acheivable. He has now terminated our consultancy agreement just as the orders are coming in. He is agreeing to pay on one of the accounts for a period of 12 months only (this was never discussed). Our consultancy fee for this one account is only worth currently £500 approx. The other two accounts would be worth substantially more and the potential for growth was huge.

We have no income and he knows this. He is trying to swindle us and we don't know where we stand. Is it possible for one of us to apply for legal aid and pursue this in the small claims court? We would like to claim for loss of potential earnings. We would be looking for £50,000 settlement from him for these very lucrative deals. Some of the quotes he has been doing due to our introductions are worth in the region of £2.5m - £5m per annum and we were in line to get 2%.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer.

Do you have an email where the percentage was agreed?

Do you have anything in writings that details exactly what function you would provide to this company?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Hi, Yes to both questions:


 


18th June: Email from XXXXX XXXXXhill to Annie “All business that you bring in and are involved with with remain with you and Katy. I have no plans to separate products etc. Certain accounts as discussed the margin has to be tweaked but other than that, you have the confidence to know everything you two are working with stays with you.”


 


Confirmation email sent by XXXXX XXXXXhill to Customer with breakdown of costs and prices including Annie’s 2%.


 


We are currently being paid 3% for the existing order which he is not contesting.


 


We agreed these percentages with him prior to orders being placed.

Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

Please can you confirm is the reason why the 3% is uncontested because of the low value?

Are the services you provide simply introductory based or do you provide similar services?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi, The 3% is uncontested as the manufacturer had no prior communication with this customer and he could not argue that we were solely responsible for bring this order in (although it is a subsidiary of one of the other orders).


 


One of the companies he is refusing to pay us for, he previously supplied but we have this in writing:


 


22nd April 2012 (Email) from Paul confirming “We do not supply anything into Europackaging, only the odd order that they send to us when they have been let down by their current supplier. The last order being 9th Sept 2011”


 


He was happy for us to bring this customer to him (we had already been supplying them from a previous manufacturer).


 


The other customer in question he is arguing that we were not responsible for the order and that his own staff worked harder than we did in bringing this order in. We were very heavily involved, lots of emails, phonecalls, persuasion, we were never informed that we would not be getting a percentage of this sale as we would have not bothered to chase it. We have this email from the manufacturer detailing his thoughts on it and saying it was a team effort and he copied us in on every email sent... if we had nothing to do with it, why did he do this? The quotations were even sent from us!


 


26th July 2012 – Paul sent email explaining how Bunzl will work... “I am also seeing XXXXX XXXXX this morning re the BA account that they supply for us. I will also talk through the other products and detail that you will be his day to day contact”


August 22nd – Paul emailed Eric confirming the progress and copied Annie in


30th August – Paul emailed Annie – “Team effort” “I will phone Eric today and get the wet wipes moving. It should be a formality”


 


This customer was a hard nut to crack as he was buying one product regularly from the manufacturer for BA. He lost this account and we were instrumental in getting it back but we never expected to get a percentage of the BA orders, it was the fact that we were responsible for the customer switching all his products to this manufacturer from a competitor supplier that we feel we should be rewarded on.


 


I hope this makes sense, sorry, it's complicated!

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


sorry, forgot to answer your second question.


 


We introduce the potential clients, we liaise between them and the manufacturer, we quote, we act as external sales consultants but represent the manufacturer to the customer doesn't view us as a meddling middle man... we take the day to day contact away from the manufacturer and answer any queries regarding product spec, use of products, pricing and any issues we can. We also offer training on the products for customers staff. We were due to present the products and deliver training to around 40 staff at one of the customers in question. We even received a phonecall from the customer to confirm this AFTER the manufacturer terminated our consultancy. He hadn't informed the customer that we were no longer working on the project. They were completely disgusted with the manufacturer about the way we had been treated. It is due to our good relationship with the customer that they placed the order for products in the first place.

Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

I will review this information and respond to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards

AJ
Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

I have reviewed can you confirm are you ultimately classified as commercial sales agents?

If that is the case you may have protection under the Commercial Agents Regulations 1993.

Can you quantify exactly what sum you are owed?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Hi,


Currently the sum owed from one particular order is around £700. There is another order due from the other customer but we don't know how much this is worth. The work we did to achieve these sales was on the understanding that we were to benefit longterm over a period of the years that the customer was retained by the manufacturer. We got the sale, maintained the customer/supplier relation, introduce new products, customer service and support and product training. We didn't do all this work to create a sale to be terminated just as the order was being negotiated.


 


It is difficult to put an actual figure on what we have been cheated out of because yes, there will be a current amount that we are owed at this point in time BUT the potential earnings are much more significant. This figure could be anything from £50k to £500k over the next 3 years. The customer we sold to hold a small amount of stock and have lots of sales people who sell these products into retail - it only needs one big tender (we have previously done one for Tesco worth £5million) and we would all be making a lot of money! We understood that we would be earning from this customer/supplier relationship for the full term of the agreement - (for the lifetime of our company continuing to trade).


 


We were not classed as Commercial Agents, when I sent my initial invoice for the order he is not disputing (although is only willing to pay for a period of 12 months) he sent this email:


 


"Many thanks for this, I shall pass this onto accounts but for future Invoices can you address them to [email protected] also for future reference can you detail on the Invoice “Consultancy Fee” not commission as you are consultants not agents. Many thanks.


 


PS just a small point, Looks like the order from Euro packaging is coming through on Monday, just had a long chat with Natalie."


 


I had described our percentage on the invoice as "commission" he wanted it described as "Consultancy Fee". I didn't question it at this point.


 


Again you can see that he is telling us that the order was due from one of the customers he is refusing to accept we are responsible for...


 


Sadly we cannot use the Commercial Agent legislation

Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

I will have to review this and revert to you.

He can call it a consultancy fee but the fact remains if you have in fact been doing agency work you can still be agents regardless of what the agreement says.

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Hi AJ


Have you got any more information for us or have you finished reviewing and have no further comments?


many thanks


Katy

Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi

Thank you.

I have read this a couple of times and regardless of the wording used i still believe you are agents.

Effectively you negotiated the contracts and introduced the customers and then he stepped in and entered into them.
That is the absolute hallmark of an agent.

In any event if you want to sue you have to find out exactly how much you are owed. Even if it is based on an estimated you still need to quantify the damages. If you sue him he will have to disclose the contracts he disclosed.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

AJ

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