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I started a new plumbing business and paid an annual membership fee to be a member of a support and mentoring group called Stopcocks Ltd. Stopcocks membership gave access to an online private facebook group where stopcocks members could post comments and questions. I was removed from this group without warning after 8 months. One of the terms of membership says that if a member brings the stopcocks name into disrepute then they will be removed. No refund of any of the fees is given. I have submitted a claim to the small claims court in order to get a refund of the fees equivalent to 4 months, nearly £700. They are defending the claim saying that my conduct is considered to have brought Stopcocks into disrepute. They have not submitted any evidence to support their statements. Their statements are false. They have only submitted the terms and conditions in the defence statement they gave me and made 6 false or irrelevant statements as a reason to remove my membership. They removed me because they say that I brought them into disrepute. 1 - Are they required to provide evidence that I brought them into disrepute or can they simply say I did?
simply a defence. They make 6 statements about me which they use to justify their view of me being disruptive to the Stopcocks community and therefore being in fundamental repudiatory breach of their terms and conditions. One of their terms was
No plumber will willingly cause harm, damage or distress to any householder. Plumbers agree that it is in the best interest to remove any plumber who is undesirable, dishonest, unreliable, not qualified (or working towards qualification) or otherwise brings the good name of Stopcocks and its members into disrepute or harms the development of our business.
Yes they would need to prove evidence.
If they are disputing and raising an issue they need to prove it
Does that clarify matters for you?
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Will the evidence be available for me to see before the hearing? I have no idea what the evidence looks like or how to show that their statements are false or unreasonable.
Yes it has to be - they need to disclose it 14 days before the hearing or can not rely on it
Does that help?
Do I have to disclose to them what I am going to use to respond to thier evidence? I can only do that after I see what they have as evidence. I will disclose it to them as soon as I know what they are counting against me because I don't actually know from their statements and the company never spoke about any of this to me as a breach of terms and conditions.
I wish I did know. That's my problem. When they say that I pestered other stopcocks members I have no idea what they are talking about. And I have no idea how my communications are considered to be bringing them into disrepute when they do not say what I said or when I said it. So how can I give my evidence until I see what comments they are talking about?
Being completely non specific works a treat for them and leaves me asking questions that I can't get any answers to.
Will the court take my lack of understanding of their claims against me into account when they consider what they rely on?