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Stuart J
Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 22401
Experience:  PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street Practice
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I own a small business. 18 months ago I entered in to a 3-year

Customer Question

I own a small business. 18 months ago I entered in to a 3-year contract with a broadband services provider for fibre optic broadband. At the time of taking out the contract I suspected that a) I would have to move premises within the term of the contract and b) I would need to upgrade to get more bandwidth within the contract term so I sought clarification on these two points. I received, along with the contract to sign, an email that stated that moves would be charged at £1,000 and that when I wanted to upgrade, I would be able to take advantage of price decreases on higher bandwidths since the provider openly advertises pricing on their website and I could take advantage of the current price at the time of upgrading bandwidth. I was subsequently told that I would also get free installation and selected my supplier in large part due to these three reasons.

I subsequently found:

1) "free" installation didn't include their subcontractor charges - which was £500

2) when I moved floors within the same building, I was charged £2,400 - despite the £1k promise and the fact that the move meant a 25m extension of new service at best (a change that also took 4 months to complete) - once again subcontractor charges

3) now that I wish to upgrade, the provider refuses to honour their commitment to charge the current advertised price (which is less than what I currently pay) and instead want to charge me much, much more

4) nor will my provider let me go to another provider without my paying out the contract as they say I would be in breach of my contract if I were to leave.

I have escalated my issues to the provider's customer relations team with no joy. Customer relations say that they have been advised by their legal team that the email that made the commitments was for information only and was not legally binding.

Is there anything I can do? There is no readily apparent protection I can find on Google for protection of SMEs from unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices.

Any advice on where to turn would be much appreciated.

regards, Scott
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.
Hello, I am Law Denning and I am a practising solicitor in a High Street practice. I have been an expert on this website in UK law since 2008. During that time, as you appreciate, I have answered thousands of questions from satisfied users on a variety of subjects. Because we are all in practice with clients and court and other users, I might not always respond in minutes. Please bear with me in that case

It is my pleasure to try and assist you with this today. Please bear with me while I gather some further information from you in order for me to be able to advise you fully.

Unless I have all the facts that I need, my answer would not be accurate.

Do you have a specific question?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry, I thought my question was clear...



"Is there anything I can do? There is no readily apparent protection I can find on Google for protection of SMEs from unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices.

Any advice on where to turn would be much appreciated."


 


To say it another way... My business was told things in an email at the time of purchase that the supplier now says "was for information" and is not legally binding. If a supplier misleads a consumer, the consumer has protection under fair trading laws. There appear to be no similar laws for businesses. Is this true? Do businesses have similar protection to consumers under the OFT or other bodies? Who can I turn to to complain? What courses of action are open to me to try to get my supplier to respect what they told me at the time of purchase? Whether I have been deliberately misled or just misled, is there any protection from any body when it is a business to business transaction?


 


Is that now clear?

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

So they told you one thing but the paperwork that you signed says something else? Who is the provider?

Have you paid the extra charges? How much extra do you think that you have paid?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

At the time of taking out the contract, I was told via email that:


 


1) installation was free


 


2) moves would be charged at £1,000


 


3) I could upgrade my service at any time in the future to the current advertised price for the higher bandwidth service


 


What I found instead was:



1) "free" installation didn't include their subcontractor charges - which I had to pay £420+VAT for

2) I was charged £2,000 + VAT rather than £1,000 for a simple move


 



3) now that I wish to upgrade, the provider refuses to honour their commitment to charge the current advertised price (which is less than what I currently pay) and instead want to charge me much, much more.


The provider is Exponential-e.


 


 

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

So they told you one thing but the paperwork that you signed says something else? Is that the case? Please confirm.

Have you paid the extra charges? How much extra do you think that you have paid or will need to pay?

 

Do you have the emails?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The contract doesn't say anything that disputes what was in the emails.


 


I have so far had to pay a total of £1,500 extra.


 


Over the next 12 months of my contract, I would have to pay an additional £3-5k extra


 


Yes I have the emails

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.




So are you saying
that the emails and the contract say the same thing and then completely out of
the blue the charges are different



Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No, I am saying that the contract didn't say anything about extra charges.


 


Nothing was said about my having to pay their subcontractor costs until after I signed the contract when I was then given a service order for the install that included the install charges which I had to be signed off by me. I argued that when I was told that install would be free, I understood they meant free, not free + their subcontractor charges. There was nowhere in what I had signed (other than the service order) that indicated that subcontractor charges would be additional.


 


For the move, I also had to sign off a service order which included the subcontractor charges - but I had no choice.

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

I need to be clear with this. So the subcontractor charge is out of the blue, not in email or agreement/contract or anywhere?

 

Why will you be paying £3-£5k extra if sub con charge is £420. Where does the figure of £2000 instead of £1000 for a simple move come from?

 

I need clear indication of the maths please.

 

 

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I confirm that the subcontractor charge was out of the blue. I signed two documents at the time of my order:


 


1. An Exponential-e Order Form which included the fine print "All other services are subject to Exponential-e's Standard Terms of Business 2011)." But I have never been given these - or a link to them. What Exponential-e now say is that the fact that I have to pay their subcontractors charges is in their Standard Terms of Business


 


2. A solution document that I was also required to sign. In the installation section is said "NO CHARGES APPLY".


 


Regarding figures, I had to pay £420 + VAT for my "free" installation and I had to pay £2,000 + VAT for my £1,000 move. I currently pay £7,200 per annum + VAT for a 25 Mbps service. What I was promised is that I could upgrade to more bandwidth at whatever the going rate is. I want to upgrade to 100 Mbps, the going rate for which is now £6,600. Instead Exponential-e which to charge me £9,600 - i.e.. £3,000 per annum more.


 


 


 


 

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.

Thanks. Assuming that you want to stay with them, the most practical solution is to pay the money under duress and simply sue them return of surplus monies for breach of contract and misrepresentation. If you keep the amount claimed under £5,000, it will be small claims court they wont get costs back even if you lose for any reason.

 

It will be more convoluted and costly to try and enforce the terms that you are looking for and believed that you were getting although the choice is yrs.

Faced with court, they might roll over if you threaten an application for an injunction to enforce the contract.

 

If they don't, then it is either pay up and sue or apply for an injunction.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

But have they broken the law on the basis of what I have described - and if so, which law/s - and on what basis?

Expert:  Stuart J replied 3 years ago.
There is no criminal issue so yr matter is purely civil based on the various factors I described

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