I sued my internet provider, Virgin Media, in the
small claims court and won £1000 – and it cost them perhaps £1000 in
lawyers’ fees. If everybody who is messed about by their provider does
the same, they will improve their service dramatically. 500
complainants would cost them £1 million.
They cut off my service and refused to do
anything for ten days. Eventually they reinstated my e-mail. They cut
off my web site and refused to do anything about it. Still haven't.
One advantage of the small claims court is that
you do not have to have a lawyer, and incur large costs. Another is
that you do not have to bear the other side’s costs if you lose. This
means that if you lose, you will be £80 out of pocket; they will be
£1000+ out of pocket. If you win, much more.
Do it for pleasure. Do not expect to win. Do not
expect justice. Just know that, even if you lose, it will cost them
£1000+. And remember that the judge has also been messed around by
internet service providers.
Your contract should say that they will provide
you with services. This is the crunch point. They will try to laugh it
away, but keep insisting. The judge will support you. He also uses the
They will try to argue that if you sometimes do
business on your e-mail or your internet it is a commercial web site
and you are not covered. Nonsense: everybody buys and many people sell
on the internet. So you send some business letters by e-mail? So does
the judge. The judge is a lawyer, who is, that day only, acting as a
judge. His e-mail and web site are what any self employed person has.
They will try to argue that if your web site
mentions your professional skills or qualifications it is a commercial
web site. Again, think what the judge has on his web site advertising
his legal business. To me, and probably to the judge, a commercial web
site is one where you can buy or sell on line.
This means that you must not claim loss of
business from your web site or e-mail as the cost. The cost must be
the time you spent sitting on a phone for hours waiting for someone to
answer. The cost must be the time you spent trying to get your web
site to work again. That is to say, you wasted time because of their
breach of contract. The time is valued at your professional fee rate.
Do not talk to the lawyers before or after the
case. They will try to psych you into dropping the case.
The procedure is very simple, straightforward and
cheap. For details see below.
The different UK systems are covered in
Small Claims advice guide
Documents are available at
Small Claims Documents
For England see
Dr Peter Bowbrick
Peter@Bowbrick.eu 0131 556 7292
0777 274 6759