JANUARY 8, 2009
In police parlance, an RTA is a road traffic accident. Which seems apt, because a firm named RTA (Business Consultants) Limited is a car crash of a business.
It claims to be the most successful privately-owned business estate agency - not just in Britain, but in Europe.
Among those who'd disagree is Paul Hill, who paid RTA £587 to sell his cafe-bar in Falmouth, Cornwall.
Within days of signing the deal, Paul had second thoughts but was told that the contract was "final and irreversible" unless he paid a £1,000 cancellation fee.
So he stuck with RTA for a year.
As the anniversary of the contract approached he rang again to say he wanted out.
But because he didn't cancel by recorded delivery letter, RTA sued when he put his cafe on the market with a different firm.
RTA won because Paul relied on consumer protection laws that don't cover businesses, not even small ones like his.
He was ordered to pay £4,406 plus £225 interest. That's approaching five grand pocketed by RTA for failing to sell his cafe.
RTA also failed to find a buyer for the shop being sold by Paul Stock and Nikki Vale in Woking, Surrey, who also paid a £587 fee. The couple said they only had three viewings in a year and decided to close the shop rather than sell it. At which point RTA demanded another £500 plus VAT. When the couple refused, RTA upped its demand to £3,000 and issued proceedings for another court action. This time it pulled out at the last minute. "They gave no reason why the case has been cancelled," Paul Stock told us.
Another furious customer is Suzan Arnavut, whose family dry cleaners went on the market with RTA back in 2005 after a visit from one of its sales reps. "After this visit we did not hear from RTA in three years and one month," said Suzan. "Then we got a phone call from them asking if we still have the business, and we said we'd sold it. "Not long after this we received a payment request for £3,625."
Tim Cuffling used RTA to try to sell his B&B in Bourne, Lincs. "In that year we received no feedback, no prospective buyers and they even called us twice to ask if we were interested in selling our business," he said. "Unbelievably, they are now demanding £500 plus VAT to terminate our agreement."
Paramjit Kooner has had just three viewings for his off-licence in Birmingham since 2004, yet RTA is now demanding £11,900 because Paramjit has ended the contract.
The last time we visited RTA's offices in Stockport there were no directors available to speak to us. So this time we tried 57-year-old Nigel Davidson (below) at his home, where he took our dossier and promised to get back to us.
Then we heard from co-director Paul O'Reilly, 48, who said going to their homes was "wholly unacceptable" - even though that's where the directors were during office hours on a weekday.
Now no one from the company will deal with the Daily Mirror.
We didn't hear from them for three years, then we got a bill for £3,625
UPDATE: We've been asked to point out that Paul Hill lost his case because he did not provide the necessary evidence to prove that he was a consumer. Other RTA clients have done so, and won their cases against RTA using consumer protection laws. Happy to make this clear.