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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 48202
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Scottish Power referred a non existent debt to debt recovery

Customer Question

Scottish Power referred a non existent debt to debt recovery agents who threatened to visit my house to recover the debt even after I had advised Scottish Power that they had not got their records straight after a previous intervention by Ombudsman Services (Energy). I had to spend a lot of time and effort getting the debt recovery agents stood down, and escalating my complaint with SP to Ombudsman Services again because they wouldn't offer any recompense for their disgusting behaviour. OS got them to issue an apology and make a 'goodwill' payment of £50. £50 seems a paltry amount for the aggravation SP have caused me. Is there any scope to pursue them for harassment or defamation?***@******.***
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

How long ago did this occur?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Scottish Power originally instructed their agents (Richburns) in January this year and Richburn's letter (which I still have) was dated 8th February 16. The original dispute with Scottish Power was settled by Ombudsman Services in December 2014, but during November / December 2015 I started getting requests for meter readings even though Scottish Power stopped supplying my energy in May 2014. From February onwards this year I pursued Scottish Power for compensation of £200 but they kept fobbing me off until I referred my complaint to Ombudsman Services yet again in April (after the OS imposed period for the energy company to reach 'deadlock'). Ombudsman Services issued its decision on my complaint on 8th June.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

OK, thank you for your response. I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you in a short while. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Also, please do not responded to this message as it will just push your questions to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, I experienced some temporary connection issues and could not get back on the site until now. All appears to be resolved now so I can continue dealing with your query.

To pursue them for defamation will be very difficult and expensive and to be honest I would not even say this was defamatory behaviour here. First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:

1. The statement has to be untrue.

2. It must directly identify the complainant.

3. It must have been published, usually communicated to at least another person.

4. It must be in a form of words, which would tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of ‘right thinking members of society generally', expose the claimant to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or cause the claimant to be shunned or avoided.

5. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.

Even if you can prove that defamation has occurred, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is extremely complex and expensive. As this goes through the High Court, you would need the professional help of specialist defamation solicitors and the costs are undoubtedly going to run into the thousands right at the outset. Also there is no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally. So when you hear about defamation claims being made, these are usually pursued by big corporations or celebrities who have a public image to protect.

In terms of harassment it is possible to make a claim for this and it wold generally be easier than defamation. However, you would not necessarily be looking for high levels of compensation so making such a claim would be risky. You could consider threatening them to pursue such a claim and hope that in the course of this they consider compensating you rather than have their name dragged through the courts and their practices made public or examined by a court.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the next steps you should follow and how to make a claim if necessary, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. If you were considering making a claim for defamation then that must be made within 1 year of the defamatory statement having been made. You need to complete form N1 and send it to the High Court:

https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/forms

I strongly suggest consulting a specialist lawyer on the process tough as it is very complex and technical.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ben, it seemed from your second from last message that you was favouring the harassment route as more likely to be successful albeit with lower levels of compensation, and I thought that was the alternative that you would have further advice to give me on how to proceed with a claim?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Apologies, for some reason the second part of my answer did not post so I will try again. In terms of harassment it could be both a civil matter and a criminal one. The law states that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and which he or she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment. Although there is no definition of what specifically amounts to harassment, it would usually include alarming a person or causing them distress and must have occurred on at least two occasions.

Under criminal law, and if this is reported to the police who then take action, the punishment for harassment can be imprisonment and/or a fine. A court may also impose a restraining order for the purpose of protecting the victim.

In addition to criminal action, a civil claim can also be brought against a person who is alleged to be guilty of causing harassment. The courts would award compensation to the victim, something that is unlikely to happen if this is pursued as a criminal issue.

The police will not often get involved in trivial disputes so if they believe that this is not serious enough they could refuse to help and advise you that this is a civil matter. In such circumstances, the victim can warn the harasser that their actions are being treated as harassment and that unless they refrain from such behaviour in the future they will be reported to the police and legal action under harassment legislation taken against them. Legal action would be pursued in the same way via an N1 claim form and you can submit that in the English courts and if necessary serve it out of the jurisdiction as explained earlier.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Many thanks.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

You are most welcome