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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I wonder if you can help please: My company agreed to have a

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Hi there I wonder if you can help please:
My company agreed to have a machine tool repaired by a one man company (sole trader). The items were agreed at £1000. 10 Months went by with no communication from him then finally he said he had not done the job (he 'was only inspecting' the equipment) and we were to collect at our expense.
He has lost us a lot of opportunity to repair and use the machine and now he wants up to pay for collection and is threatening storage rates. We have sent an invoice for the machine for £4000 as he wont return it. He has now said we have one last chance to collect it - but we don't trust he will be there for us to collect or all the accessories will be there. Where do we legally stand please?

Hello what are you ideally hoping to achieve please?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Initially we wanted the tool repaired but now it appears this person is unable or unwilling we need to have the machine returned. Surely it should be legally at his expense and be by his arrangement?

Ok thanks leave it with me please I will reply when in the office later on today thanks

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok thanks, ***** ***** this email to us recently by way of reply:John Heffernan, my solicitor has advised me to take this matter up with South Wales Police, as he states that you are attempting to extort monies from me as per your invoice.For legal purposes1. I have not agreed to buy the machine listed in the invoice, nor made any contract with you to buy this or any item.
2. I have offered you two separate periods within normal working hours for you to collect "your machine".This information is documented and is in the possession of my solicitor.My solicitor has advised me to offer you one more opportunity to collect or have this machine collected next week from Monday 4th of July through to Friday 8th of July between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00, failure to do so will leave me no option than to take this matter further with the Police. I will also issue you with an invoice for storage of the machine for everyday it has been here, and loss of earnings for the three periods that i have taken off work to enable you to collect "your" machine.As far as the threats you are making in your last email, they will also be put forward to the Police.Your bullying attitude has not gone unnoticed, and that may work in your business environment, but it doesn't in mine.

Many thanks for your patience. I would not worry too much about the correspondence he has sent you and the threats of extortion and police involvement. The police will not deal with this as it is a civil matter. So they will not be interested in it.

As to who is responsible for the return of the machine the law is relatively silent on this unfortunately. Just because you sent the machine for repair and they could not do that, it does not automatically mean that they are legally bound to make arrangements for its return to you. This is really something which needs to be agreed between you two and you need to try to come to an arrangement as to how this is done. At this stage it appears that you have been given an opportunity to go and collect it and I would suggest you go on the pre-agreed time and date to do this. If the person is mot there and you are unable to collect it as a result then you can start considering holding them liable for losses incurred, such as costs for organising the collection plus any lost business from the delay in getting the machine back. It is unlikely that you can just charge them for the value of the machine simply because they have not made arrangements to return the machine.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps you need to follow should you have to pursue them for losses incurred, 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

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Unfortunately we did not discuss who was returning or collecting. He took 10 months to be forced to reply that he was not going to do anything with it and we should collect it. In my book (morally) it is his duty to return it as he let is down and had no due care for us or our machine. He could have said it was 'double the cost' or 'come get your machine - sorry I can't fix it' etc. We were treated in the worst way with loss of use of machine or opportunity to fix elsewhere. Also I'm suspicious that if we collect the machine the duty of care is on our (expensive) collection service. He may not be there, he may have lost parts and blame our machine moving company etc.
There is a possibility he thought we would give up and he would keep the machine.
Would it not be better to persue our invoice through a small claims until he is forced to either pay or return the machine?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi there can you answer my second part please, thanks.
I'm not sure why his solicitor (if he has one)!would not suggest that he simply return the machine to us?

Thank you. Whilst I completely understand your point of view, a moral obligation can be completely different to a legal one and unfortunately it is only the latter that would matter. I think it would be difficult to pursue an invoice for an item which you have been given the opportunity to collect and which was not subject to a prior agreement for him to arrange the return of. Saying that if you are willing to potentially lose the claim fees but still want to make the claim in order to send a message and try to force him to change his mind, then you are entirely free to do so.

In terms of the procedure, whenever a dispute arises over compensation owed by one party to another, the party at fault can be pursued through the civil courts. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:

1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the party at fault to voluntarily settle this matter.

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the party at fault must be sent a formal letter asking them to resolve this amicably 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 pursue the compensation due. 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 Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the other side 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.