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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My daughter Emma has been with a Voice Over Agent on a non-exclusive

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My daughter Emma has been with a Voice Over Agent on a non-exclusive basis which meant that she would get put forward for jobs by him but he was not considered her Agent. On this basis, she acquired a voice over job through the Agent, which she did in London on the 27th November 2013 for which she was told by her Agent that she could expect to receive £1,200 payment, after commission.

The Client Emma did the job for was extremely happy with her work and Emma was told by her Voice Over Agent that he would receive the payment within one calendar month from the date of the job.

Because it was Christmas, she was told no funds were forthcoming so Emma tried to call her Agent at the beginning of January to ask about payment. He did not answer her call but her Agent texted back immediately to tell her she had to wait two more weeks for him to receive payment.

Two more weeks came and went and Emma tried yet again to speak to her Agent by telephone. She could not get him by telephone (his personal mobile no) although she tried him twice on Monday 20th January, 2014 and attempted to ring him again on Tuesday 21st, in the morning, but he didn't pick up yet again, so Emma rang the office. A member of staff told her to put what she needed to say in writing, which she did and her Agent e-mailed her back not long after to say that she would have to wait until Friday of last week for payment to be received by him and that if he had any problems, he would get back to her.

When no payment was forthcoming by Friday of last week, Emma rang her Agent's mobile yesterday but to no avail, so again, she sent him an e-mail asking about payment. He replied almost immediately with a very frustrated tone that Emma had been calling him numerously last week and that she should refer to what he had told her last time in his previous e-mail to say he expected to receive payment by Friday! He then proceeded to add that payment can be expected on Wednesday this week!

At the beginning of January, her Agent asked her to send details of herself to be placed on their website which Emma took to mean that they were happy with her and her work and by being placed on the website, she was with them exclusively. Since then, no contract has been written or discussed and she has no means of getting payment now as they do not have any address or bank details for her. Emma has asked twice now via e-mail how they will pay and if she could send them any details to enable this to happen, but this has been ignored both times. The only route that seems open to Emma now is to be a nuisance and keep pestering until her Agent gets bored and pays up. Is this correct? Obviously, if we do get heavy handed, then this will end the relationship with her Agent but the reality of this problem, already suggests that this cannot be a relationship that will work as this is only the first job and her Agent is already stalling for time.

I am presuming if we throw in the towel, then we would have to go to a Small Claims Court but any advice about this procedure from you, would be gratefully received.

I look forward to hearing from you with any advice for us.

Kind regards

Sheila Golding

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Customer:

Thank you very much Ben.

Ben Jones :

was the offer of payment only verbal?

Customer:

It was written in an e-mail sometime in October/November last year.

Ben Jones :

Was the agent paid for this work by the client?

Customer:

We cannot determine that. He may have the money by now, but he may not have any intention of releasing it to my daughter. He is making out to us, however, that he has not been paid.

Ben Jones :

Have you checked with the client to see what the status is?

Customer:

I don't believe we are at liberty to do so. Can we? This is supposed to go through the agent as my daughter has had no direct contact with the client apart from on the day of the job.

Ben Jones :

Well if the agent is withholding payment and there is uncertainty whether it is because they have not been paid or are just trying to keep the money she is due, then there is nothing stopping her from contacting the client just to query what actually happened. She will not be going behind the agent's back to try and get paid directly by them, rather she is just trying to clear up whether a payment has been made to the agent which will enable her to decide how to pursue the matter further

Customer:

Do you think this has to be done by Emma before we can proceed further with her agent to pursue her money?

Ben Jones :

Yes, I will set out an action plan below, won't be long

Customer:

Also just so you know, Emma does not have any contact details for them because she went to a recording studio in London.

Customer:

If this is the case, can you please tell us how best to proceed without this information also?

Ben Jones :

Ok, so the first issue is she does not have any contact details for them, which means she must use her initiative to try and locate them somehow. Whether trying to remember their name and looking them up, contacting the studio to check with them who booked it on that specific day and so on. It is not imperative that she contacts them but it would be useful so that she knows where she stands and how best to take this further.


 


If she manages to get hold of them and finds out the agent was paid, or even if she does manage to get hold of them and would assume he was paid, then she should proceed as follows:


 


1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent to the agent to allow the debtor to voluntarily pay what is due.


2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the debtor must be sent a formal letter asking them to repay the debt, or at least make arrangements for its repayment, within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to recover the debt. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.


3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the debtor and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.


 


Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.


 


There is no way to force the agent to act in the way they should or to make them pay and if all steps have been followed and court appears to be the only recourse then she may have to go down that route eventually. The small claims court is a relatively risk-free way to try and pursue debts, although it is for her to decide whether it is worth risking potentially severing her relationship with the agent as a result.

Customer:

So you are saying because she cannot find out whether her agent has already received her payment, then there is only the Court system to retrieve her money.

Ben Jones :

there is no way to force the agent to reveal that information if they did not want to do so. It means she can ask him as much as she wants but he can simply refuse to tell her anything. So she either has to accept she will not get paid or try to pursue the matter through the courts - these are the only two options available

Customer:

Thanks Ben, I think we have our answer although of course, I am absolutely not happy about it but not surprised by it all either. It is not usual for any actor to be given details of potential jobs, other than an address because everything is supposed to go through an Agent and they deal with everything! Emma will have to decide how much longer to pursue the money but as I see it, the relationship is already on the rocks, so she probably will lose nothing by going through the Courts. She may gain £1,200.

Customer:

One last question, what information will she require to pursue this through the Courts? I hope she has everything she needs otherwise that may be a stumbling block also.

Ben Jones :

well there is no minimum requirement, if needed it can all be verbal promises and it would be for the court to decide who is telling the truth. So any documentary evidence she has would be useful, like the email you mentioned or any other correspondence chasing this with the agent. But in the small claims court it is not a case of providing bundles of evidence, many disputes are one person's word against the other so they are used to it

Customer:

Okay. I will ask her to re-look at all the ones she has to see if any implicate her Agent further. Thanks for all your help.

Ben Jones :

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Customer:

Thanks.

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