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Senior Partner
Senior Partner, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 13323
Experience:  Solicitor with more than 30 years experience
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When is a business meeting considered to be agreed and confirmed?

Customer Question

When is a business meeting considered to be agreed and confirmed? My colleagues and I have been talking to The Soil Association about arranging a meeting with one of their certification officers in for them to carry out an assessment of our business to gain Soil Association approval and claim Organic for our products.
Various dates had been offered and rejected by my colleague who was to attend the meeting. Finally the Soil Association employee with whom we were asked to meet offered 11th Dec as the only date she had left this year. We did not reply to confirm that this date was acceptable or agree a time and location however The Soil Association deem that a meeting has been arranged and have invoiced us for £190 + VAT.
We have spoken to them about this and they are not budging, they say a meeting was arranged however we have not written back confirming this or verbally confirmed this in any way so we do not believe a meeting had been agreed. Its not the money, its the principal.
There is a full e-mail trail which clearly shows that we did not write back and confirm a meeting time or location. They seem to be working on the basis that because we have not replied and said that its not convenient that its agreed by default and have charged us on this basis. Please can you explain the legal position on this if any. Thank you.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 11 months ago.
Hi thanks for your question. The legal position is quite simple. To form a legally binding obligation certain things have to happen and one of them is offer and acceptance of the offer. You cannot just impose on someone an obligation by deeming them to have accepted.
Unless the Soil association had a preexisting agreement with you to cover these fees then there is no obligation on your part. I assume you do not have any contracts with them to cover this?
I suggest you write to them and say their invoice is not valid and unless they can produce clear evidence of a contract you will not pay.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
We have signed an agreement which states that if we cancel a meeting we will be charged the £190 + VAT but as we do not believe we had agreed to this meeting as we had not replied confirming that the date was suitable we do not feel that there was a meeting to cancel as it was never agreed in the first place.
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 11 months ago.
Does the agreement say anything about how the meeting are to be agreed? If not then they cannot deem you to have agreed to a meeting neither can they claim you cancelled one if you never agreed to it. Ask them for the evidence that you agreed to the meeting. I would escalate this to someone in senior management or threaten them with trading standards
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
There is nothing about cancelling meetings in the original contract we signed it is set out in an additional document entitled Fees for UK Food Businesses. It states under the heading 'Inspection cancellation fees'Our inspections are carefully planned, please note if they are cancelled with fifteen or less working days’ notice from the agreed date we will make an additional charge of £190 + VAT.Again as we did not agree or confirm the meeting in writing or verbally we do not believe this applies. We are considering writing to their CEO or Managing Director about this as it feels as though its bordering on fraud.
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 11 months ago.
I agree with what you say. If the meeting was not agreed then there is no basis for a charge and if it is clear that the meeting was simply a proposal then it is quite improper to be demanding money in this way.
I would write to the CEO. Presumably they are the only organisation that can give you the certification that you want and there is a risk they can try and hold you to ransom so all the more reason to escalate it.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
There are other organisations but we have paid a fee of £595 + VAT for our membership now. We have also paid the £190 because we do not want this to delay our progress with the business any longer.What legal term would you use to describe what they have done here?
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 11 months ago.
What they have done is really bullying but if it is anything legally it is abuse of their market position. It is could be an unfair business practice aswell.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Ok, thanks for your help.
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 11 months ago.
Thanks . I hope you win this argument . Let me know if I can do anything further.

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