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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I agreed in email with an incompetent book keeper to terminate

Resolved Question:

I agreed in email with an incompetent book keeper to terminate here contract, pay an agreed sum and collect our property. I sent payment and she confirmed receipt and instructed me to meet her in a car park at 3PM today. I arrived and she met and ask me to accompany her to her car. She then made it clear she was dispensing with the prior agreement and if I wanted my accounts and computer I would have to pay her another £600 and forced me to sign a document cancelling the old agreement and agreeing to the £600. I had no choice the accounts are essential to our business and the risk of leaving my property with someone who had behaved in an eratic and unpredicatable manner was too great. The question is, is what she did illegal and should I be forced to pay her the £600 after I signed the contract on my own. I should add that I realised I had been ambushed and took a few minutes to make a phone call - actually what i did was instead turn on audio recording and she was recorded admitted that she was forcing me to sign under duress and unilaterally tearing up the previous agreement.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : Was she an employee or just under a contract to supply services?
Customer:

Thanks Alex - just under contractor to supply services, these were quoted based on estimates, confirmed with my approval, any variation had to be agreed. In this instance, 20 hours became 30 hours (which I agreed to). Last week she sent a text saying she had overun and would now bill me for 60 hours, no negotiation or justification, just offered payment terms. I had not given any prior agreement nor was their any prior warning or such a large increase. On top of this she had messed up invoicing and started to upset clients so we came to agreement to pay 30 hours confirmed in writing and this was the agreement she overturned.

Alex Watts :

When did you sign this new agreement?

Customer:

Wednesday 19th February when she wrote "I m happy to raise an invoice for 30 hours because I recognize I should have informed you." In addition she confirmed agreement on same date in an invoice that specified 30 hours and the rest would be down to my goodwill.

Customer:

Her invoice was of £1,240 but said ...

Customer:

Please make payment for no less than 30 hours Totalling £600 as agreed.
Any additional contribution would be gratefully received although not compulsory.

Customer:

The agreement was for me to pay this and I would have my computer and files returned. I offered to make a one off ex-gratia payment if she let things pass amicably. Then after I made payment in good faith and she ignored all communications for a while and then I was told where to collect my items. At that point she overturned all the above stood by her car with my property inside and insisted I pay her the full amount and sign a new agreement on the spot overturning the agreement and agreeing to the full amount.

Customer:

Question is does the manner in which she forced me to sign a new agreement invalidate such an agreement. Am I now forced to pay here. I do have a recording of her admitting wrong doing and that she was forcing me against my will. So would this be enough to have her case for any further debt over and above the £600 overturned by a small claims court or defend me from any debt collector she employed?

Alex Watts : Yes you could certainly sue for breach of contract.
Alex Watts : You need to write and set out your losses and request a refund within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this signed delivery and keep a copy.
Alex Watts : If they do not refund you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk or by completing form N1 http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n001-eng.pdf and take it to your local County Court.
Alex Watts : The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce.
Alex Watts : If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Customer:

Is it not possible to take a passive position, await for her to attempt to claim the extra £600 and then defend myself with the confidence of having her admission recorded that she acted illegally and forced me against my will to overturn the above agreement.

Alex Watts : You could if you have not paid it yet. I was under the impression you had paid it already.
Alex Watts : But if you have not, pay what you believe you owe and let her sue you for the balance.
Customer:

That's fine - As per my reply at 8.13 I did pay her the amount originally agreed of £600 and on that basis will let her do the donkey work. She should easily calculate she is not in a good position to win and the time cost and effort not worth the while for the sake of another £600. If she does try to sue out of spite then I am confident I have a full audit of what happened and her omission of wrong doing and breach of agreement recorded.

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