Legal Proceedings when a customer Refuses to Pay

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I have completed as a florist, a piece of work that had been approved based upon a written brief including a quotation. The price was approved and a purchase order issued 3 months ago in advance of the work being completed in November.

I was informed 2 weeks ago that a cheque for £5084.23 (incl VAT) had been raised and signed for by the client but was awaiting a second signature by the owner. The owner then contacted me by email to say that he was refusing to sign the cheque and was only prepared to authorise payment of £2700 + VAT because in his words the job was overpriced for what it was.

I have responded to the email stating that I had been totally transparent with the costs (based upon my written brief that had a full cost breakdown) such that I was issued with a PO for the agreed amount back in September. He has not responded to my counter claims - how do you suggest I proceed? - do I need a solicitor to pursue my claim?
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You mention client and owner, in what capacity did the client order this arrangement and what position in the owner's business do they hold? Does your purchase order provide for any queries in price to be raised at the time it is provided and if so was this done by the owner?This information allows us to provide you with some information on your query.

It seems this is a case of stalling on payment and the more detail you get from them in writing as to what the problem is the more it helps you decide on the next action. A claim through the small claims court would be next and it is vital you know, to avoid costs and time, what they are likely to say in any defence. Ask them to confirm at this stage, in writing, why the issue of costs was not raised at the time of their purchase order and to specify their reasons for not honouring the contract. Allow them 7 days to respond. At that time, or on response come on here again for further advice on issuing the claim via the small claims court. You do not need a solicitor to do this nor will you get your costs for a solicitor back in the small claims court.

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Hello Donna-sorry to hear of your woes.

This type of problem is increasingly common under the credit crunch as businesses try to renege on deals or postpone indefinitely.

We have a number of clients who are in your position.

First of all adding to the above:

when you write" a piece of work that had been approved based upon a written brief including a quotation. The price was approved and a purchase order issued 3 months ago in advance of the work being completed in November. " I trust this work was agreed on your terms and conditions which accompanied the brief and quote. Please confirm how and why you believe there was full and unconditional acceptance of your quote. If not to what terms were you working to?

Next in terms of this:

"I was informed 2 weeks ago that a cheque for £5084.23 (incl VAT) had been raised and signed for by the client but was awaiting a second signature by the owner. The owner then contacted me by email to say that he was refusing to sign the cheque and was only prepared to authorise payment of £2700 + VAT because in his words the job was overpriced for what it was."

I wonder who was the authority you stated in the first para who approved the work? Was this a director or manager? Assuming no caveats in their response it would seem there would have be an offer and an unconditional acceptance in which case you would be able to sue through MCOL-Moneyclaim Online-or the small claim county court for damages-breach of contract-plus late interest.

You do not need a solicitor to proceed in the same way you do not need a bathroom fitter to tile your bathroom for instance but before DIY law consider whether you have an adequate skill set and time and knowledge to handle this yourself. Botching a kitchen/bathroom or a court case is never painless.

Susan of course is correct-small claim or MCOL you would not be able to claim solicitor's fees but if over £5k-to qualify it outside the small claims court system-as this appears to be-in the fast track system you would be able to claim as normal and would be able to recover most legal fees if you won-the loser paying the winner's normal and reasonable legal fees.

We often do a "warning letter before action" which gives the other side 7 days to pay up failing which you can begin action and which from a solicitor "does the trick" in a way a letter from a non solicitor does not.

For further details feel free to give us a "no obligation call" on 07957 653830 to discuss in confidence.

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Thank you for your constructive advice. I will take on board your suggestions and get back if I need to. Thank you for your prompt response.
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