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Jamie-Law
Jamie-Law, Solicitor
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Experience:  Solicitor
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I've signed up to an exclusive matchmaking company in

Resolved Question:

Hi, I've signed up to an exclusive matchmaking company in Mayfair based on the Managing Director's email that the membership is effectively a lifetime membership. The agreement itself said 24 months max but I signed based on what I interpreted as the spirit of the agreement - and based on the MD's email. I froze my membership at a certain point but the agency is now refusing to extend the membership so I am considering my options legally. Do I have a case here? Any further details required please don't hesitate to ask.
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

How much is your loss please?

Jamie-Law, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 1738
Experience: Solicitor
Jamie-Law and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
There's no "loss" as such. I just want to make sure I get the service that I signed up for while they're trying to get away with the minimum. Can explain better over the phone but let me know what details you'd need?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

What is your number?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
You free to talk now??
Please call me on***********
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

ok.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Hi Alex,Many thanks for the call just now and appreciate you picking this up on a Friday evening.I have attached a word document that contains three relevant exhibits :
1) the Managing Director's email to me before I signed the contract - this was the email that led me to sign the agreement
2) The relevant clause in the agreement. I am not entirely sure if under the agreement I can show you the entire contract at this stage but happy to discuss further.
3) What the current operations manager is offering me. As you can see the 24 month has lapsed from July 2014 but my membership was actually frozen for at least half that time because I was in a relationship then. Anyway, coupled with what the MD said in his email, I just don't think what they're offering me is in-line with what I see as the "spirit" of the agreement.Thanks again for your help and advice.Kind Regards,Keith
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Just wanted to add that the agency has suffered from very high turnovers so the team of "psychologist" of matchmakers has become untrue. The current matchmakers are not qualified psychologist so maybe there's also an angle of misrepresentation on this front here.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

The clause says this:
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mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}Membership Time: We really don’t need to offer you an open-ended membership, we will find you a relationship in a year. However, as a safety net for our members, we if you are not in a relationship after a year we can extend your membership without additional charge. If you happen to be single in future, we can activate your file and consider you for our members on an open-ended basis.

It says they can CONSIDER you on an open ended basis?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I can't see your reply at all - looks like HTML to me? Can you please try to reply in plain text or email (*****@******.***) or call me? Many thanks
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Membership Time: We really don’t need to offer you an open-ended membership, we will find you a relationship in a year. However, as a safety net for our members, we if you are not in a relationship after a year we can extend your membership without additional charge. If you happen to be single in future, we can activate your file and consider you for our members on an open-ended basis.

It says they can CONSIDER you on an open ended basis?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
34;Consider" in this context means I will still be in the membership pool and be available to be selected for other active members. However, I'd imagine the pertinent point here is this? "... as a safety net for our members, we if you are not in a relationship after a year we can extend your membership without additional charge."
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

They can just consider you, which means they can think about it. It does not mean they have to

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Jamie - i get that. What about the other bit. The "consider" bit in my mind isn't the matter of contention.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Yes they can - but they do not have to. There is no obligation to do so.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Wow is that not misleading?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
in an extreme case, one could join the agency, meet somebody from outside and freeze the membership on Day1 and the membership will still lapse after 24 months without them even have to do a single thing. Is that fair in your mind?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I read "we can extend you membership without additional charge" in a completely different way I must admit. I think that's misleading.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
you think I should just drop it?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

It could be worth pursuing in terms of going to Mediation. But I think beyond that you may not be successful.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Mediation is really the route I'm looking for. I just hate the way they treat their members and handle the important matter of memberships with such ambiguity. I'm not looking to get my money back but to make sure they provide the service they said they would based on the understanding and interpretation from the MD's email.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Yes. But there is a risk of course.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
there's no protection for the consumers for unfair and ambiguous contracts?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

There is under the Consumer Rights Act 2015:

62 Requirement for contract terms and notices to be fair

(1)An unfair term of a consumer contract is not binding on the consumer.

(2)An unfair consumer notice is not binding on the consumer.

(3)This does not prevent the consumer from relying on the term or notice if the consumer chooses to do so.

(4)A term is unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer.

(5)Whether a term is fair is to be determined—

(a)taking into account the nature of the subject matter of the contract, and

(b)by reference to all the circumstances existing when the term was agreed and to all of the other terms of the contract or of any other contract on which it depends.

But its still a litigation risk

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
The contract was signed before the Act came into force so Alex was saying there was something else prior to that.What is litigation risk? Problem with going down the litigation route is that it'll fundamentally damage the relationship and I'd think it'd make the working relationship quite difficult.But can you tell me what you think about my extreme example of the membership lapsing without a single day of the member being active? That's my main point.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts 1999 would apply:

Unfair Terms

5.—(1) A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

(2) A term shall always be regarded as not having been individually negotiated where it has been drafted in advance and the consumer has therefore not been able to influence the substance of the term.

(3) Notwithstanding that a specific term or certain aspects of it in a contract has been individually negotiated, these Regulations shall apply to the rest of a contract if an overall assessment of it indicates that it is a pre-formulated standard contract.

(4) It shall be for any seller or supplier who claims that a term was individually negotiated to show that it was.

It would be on them to show it was fair.

If it lapsed without being active, then it is still up to them to consider whether to extend it

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Oh 1999
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Hang on - so how would these apply in this context?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Because you could try and argue it was unfair term.

That is your only option.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
But that's the mediation bit then isn't it?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Yes but if that does not work Court is the only other option

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
What's the process of mediation?
As you can see in the file i sent over, the current operations director (I think she's new) said that they've extended my membership to Feb 2017 as a goodwill gesture. My problem is that over the 24 months my membership was on freeze for more than half of it - and their service was shoddy to say the least. So what I want them to do is to honour what the MD said - and that's the reason why I joined them in the first place - there is no marginal costs to them so I'm just not sure why they're being such a pain about it. To me, it's a matter of good faith. In the context of what I asked and how the MD answered, it was cleared that I was asking about a lifetime membership and he answered in a positive manner. I don't think I have misconstrued what he said.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
One could also argue that 24 month period is unfair on the consumer because it doesn't consider the possibility of the frozen period.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Mediation you would instruct a mediator. Then they would try and reach a settlement between you and them. You could try and argue its unfair because of the frozen period. But that again is a matter of litigation submissions for a Judge.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Oh so mediation already involves a judge?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
What do you think about the fact that they haven't referred to the 24 months as continuous / 2 consecutive calendar years? Cos one could interpret it as 24 months worth of active service, even if they are stop-start in nature?
In a way, that's a relatively minor point as I signed the agreement in good faith that the MD will honour what he said in the email.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Also, does value (as in the monetary amount of the membership) affects the perception of what service is provided? In other words, they could be completely useless at their jobs, making members feel completely frustrated for 24 months and then still get away with it? Also, not sure if you saw my point about the fact that the MD's email said they have a team of psychologist as matchmakers? They're not - is that also an angle of misrepresentation?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

No judge, just a mediator. Yes if you have the email that assists if it overrides what the contract says. Misrepresentation is different angle but again you wosuld have to go to court.

No matter what arguments you have it's mediation or court. There is always going s be a risk

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
What is the risk you speak of?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I'm thinking what I need is a strongly worded letter outlining the case as I / we see it, and I propose the mediator route as my first option unless they agree to address my concerns. And see where we go from there...!
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Losing. If you lose and it's not a small claim you will be liable for their costs. No lawyer will say you have more than 60% chance of winnng

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Will you be able to help me put a case together using both the email and the contract? Do you know under the terms of services here on justanswer, can I share with you otherwise confidential documents?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
What's a small claim?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I'm not trying to "claim" money - that will only be a by-product if the judge decides the agreement is fundamentally flawed and has it nullified. I am seeking their provision of service as agreed by the MD in writing and no more. I really don't see how that's difficult to achieve.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

If it's anything other than money it won't be a small claim. Not being a small claim menans you are liable for costs if you lose.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
The law doesn't make it easy to protect the lay person does it. So what is your recommendation of the best strategy? What are the likely costs if I lose?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Costs about £15k to £25k.i would suggest mediation

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Crikey!
Ok but we've been talking about mediation so can I lose in mediation?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Yes. But that would be only £500 for a mediator.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Would I be in a better position to assess my chances after mediation? Anyway, the whole reason why I'm after legal advice is really about how relevant the MD's email is to this whole farce. From what you're saying it's completely open to interpretation (so why not mine?) - and what can a mediator really achieve? What is the incentive for the agency to settle? All I want them to do is to provide the service they said they would. I really don't see how trying to get away without doing their job is fair to the customer. Anyway, I'm repeating myself. So will you be able to help me to construct a case?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Yes see what happens after mediation. No sadly I can't help you construct a case as this is a question and answer site.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Who is Alex by the way? Does he work with you in your practice?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Justanswer Is not a practise for law firm, it's a question and answer site which Alex is an expert

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Oh I see - so you and Alex are similar - I'm just wondering why Alex was the one who made the call yesterday. Thanks also for clarifying on the purpose of the site, and thanks for taking the time the answer all my questions. Much appreciated.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Do you know any solicitors who specialise in membership contract disputes that I can actually hire to construct a case for me?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

Sadly I am not allowed. Please go to

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Oh really, why??
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
How would I go about finding a mediator? Would I mediator help me to construct a case or is he/she supposed to be neutral and work for both sides?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

It's against site rules. You can google search mediators such as at Clerksroom

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Ok I see!
But is a mediator a neutral party?
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Would they help me construct a case or would I still need to hire a solicitor?It's a matter of principle so I don't mind spending a bit of money on it - not 15k..!!
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

You would still need a solicitor.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Ok - so what would say is the sequence of event?
Is it:
1) me to find a solicitor to review the facts and evidence and construct a case
2) decide whether to go down the mediator route or not (sorry can you please tell me if a mediator is supposed to be working for me or is he supposed to be a neutral party?)
3) notify the matchmaking agency of my intention and offer them a chance to remedy the situation
4) hire mediator if 3 fails
5) prepare mediator and begin procedure with the agency?
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 3 months ago.

1) notify agency

2) mediation

3) complete mediation

4) then he a solicitor to review if that fails

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Thanks - that makes sense!Thank you for taking the time over the weekend to answer all my questions. Much appreciated.

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