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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2847
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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My Business is being taken to court for a debt, the debt I

Customer Question

My Business is being taken to court for a debt, the debt I do not dispute, but the due date is disputed. It was for an item to be delivered in June, but they delivered early (March). I did telephone the Company to discuss this and various emails took place. I do have a Sales Order Confirmation from the supplier indicating estimated delivery date stating 1/6/13.
They have now issued court proceedings. As I say I don’t dispute the debt – just the date when it is due – how should I respond? (I certainly do not wish for a CCJ to be registered against my business. I did highlight to their solicitors, Thomas Higgins, the fact if they raised paperwork through SCC then by the time I defended this would only delay payment. (i.e due end July). Obviously the Claim Form includes interest and solicitors fees. But the Company has also issued a separate invoice for solicitors fees – can this be considered a real debt? (there is no separate written contract, only paperwork is the Sales Order Confirmation they issue upon receipt of our order for goods. We also state required delivery date upon our purchase order, as the supplier Company operates a Deferred Ordering System.
They have since March delivered other items early (as they say they are discontinued - so must deliver early), they say this is their policy although it is not a written policy, just how they operate.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
Hello and welcome to Just Answer.

My name is Alex and I'm happy to help with your question today.

I'm a little confused. If the product was delivered in March why was the invoice not settled soonet? Why is early delivery an issue - surely that's a good thing?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


We have many items delivered regularly -so as to schedule deliveries for both storage and cashflow - we request when items are required. As I said the Supplier has a Deferred Ordering System so shops like us do not have to hold all ordered items until required by customer. The items we are talking about do take some 5/6 months to order. If they operate a deferred ordering system and supply an estimated delivery date -then deliver some 3 months early is this correct?

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
OK. Understood. Why was the product not rejected on the basis that it had arrived 3 months early? What happened to the products which were delivered early?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


We telephoned the supplier - they told us that this item was being discontinued and this was their policy - which we had never been made aware of.


 

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
OK. Understood. What happened to the product after it arrived at your end?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It was stored by us until the customer required it - it has now left the shop


 

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information. You seem to be saying there are two issues.

Issue 1. Whether there are any grounds to dispute the claim on the basis that delivery of goods was 3 months early; and

Issue 2. Whether there are any grounds to dispute the solicitors fees/interest etc.

In relation to these issues my views are as follows:

Issue 1. Early delivery of goods is unlikely to amount to a breach of contract. Usually breach of contract arises when 'time is of the essence' and unreasonable delay has been caused by a party. In this case not only were the goods delivered but they were delivered in advance of the delivery date. If this was an issue you would have been within your rights to reject the goods and seek delivery on the correct date. But since the goods were accepted you have by implication agreed to early delivery.

Issue 2. The solicitors costs etc should be included in the claim not as a separate debt. If this is a small claim then you will generally be liable for solicitors costs if you have acted unreasonably e.g. lack of communication, failure to respond to letter of claim. Normally the other party has to follow a pre-action protocol - so they would write to you with details of the claim and seek to negotiate a settlement. At this stage you would been given the chance to raise the issue of early delivery and give reasons why a claim should not be issued. If you responded with a reasonable offer of settlement then you could argue that you should not be liable for all the costs. If you did nothing or delayed then you may have to pay the costs of bringing the claim.

You accept that you're liable for the sum due so you would have to admit that part of the claim. You can also discuss a reduction of legal costs on the grounds set out above. Ultimately you should make every effort possible to settle this matter to avoid racking up further costs.

Happy to discuss further.

Alex

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