Without naming names, in 2011 we found ourselves in a dispute with a global courier company who failed to deliver what and when they promised to do so. To compound the issue they messed up a pick-up in another country which we ended up having to resolve through numerous overseas calls (think time zones).
I should say at this point, until this issue we had always paid our invoices in full and on time with this company even when we’d had minor issues in the past. On this occasion though, we were penalised by our client (naturally the Terms and Conditions state that they are not responsible for consequential losses) and felt compelled to dispute the fee as the courier had failed to deliver, thus causing the very consequential loss.
During the process a number of calls were made and different people were spoken to within the complaints process, each one offering different information some offering credit notes some saying they would call back others doing absolutely nothing.
Ultimately, our account was suspended while the dispute continued; we offered a fee to settle the issue with details on why we thought this was fair. They threatened and then started legal action.
This was a particularly unpleasant development as Mellor&Scott offer services and work hard to keep our clients happy. We do not threaten legal action as a matter of course. This felt like intimidation tactics from a large company with huge global resources.
We began receiving formal letters from the legal representatives of the courier company and I think it is fair to say they appeared to be templates that are churned out in order to intimidate smaller (or David) companies. This statement is based on the fact that some of the dates did not seem to coincide with what was agreed. We had a threatening letter sent to us while we were still in discussion trying to settle with the courier company, so I have no doubt that they were just sending generic letters in order to bully us in to submission.
Fortunately we were able to enlist the advice of a good solicitor firm to help formalise our argument. Their actions were far and above what we would have been able to do as the legal Chess game that solicitor’s play as part of their work is not 100% familiar to us.
A court was appointed and relocated to a more sensible location (another example of further Goliath bullying tactics) and an attempt was made to agree on a settlement cost prior to having to go before the court.
A fee was eventually agreed that that was significantly less than the original invoice that they had pursued and we settled, we are now in the process of getting our account reinstated. This whole scenario took approximately 7 months to resolve.
Throughout the whole time we could have capitulated and paid but we knew that we were fundamentally right and we had email documentation that supported certain elements but the resources that the courier company had at their disposal far outweighed our SME resources.
We were very lucky in that we had an experienced solicitor on whom we were able to enlist but if this wasn’t the case we would probably have had to pay a huge, unjustifiable fee.
You have to pick your battles in business and this is the first time we have fought such a large company so it feels like it was worth the effort and like a victory for the ‘little guy’. We certainly don’t make a habit of getting involved in litigation and believe that communication and expectation management can resolve most issues before they start. Mellor&Scott strive to provide it’s customers with everything we promise so it hurts when an established company does not work by the same values and leave an SME in the mire.
It makes you want to defend your position, even against all the odds.