My name is Mal.
My husband and I have a greeting card shop. Someone from RTA called us in early January 2010 and as we'd been planning our retirement, we agreed to see one of their representatives on 26th January. The rep arrived and we discussed the sale in the shop, in between serving customers and trying to be discrete. The 'sell' was very low key. We suggested a price of £55000, and were told that their commission of £4000 would be added to that figure. My husband joked that £65000 would be better, and the rep said, 'Why not?' He even said we could add their commission on top if we wanted, but we felt that was going too far. I got the impression that if we had said we wanted £100,000, he would have agreed. He told us that part of the commission was due in advance - £1000 plus VAT - but we had no cheque book with us so it was agreed that we could send the payment the following day. The contract was not discussed in any detail, apart from the advance payment, the commission, and the fact that it was for 12 months. There was no mention of a cancellation fee of £500. A rather odd thing, in retrospect, was that the rep insisted that when we had viewings we should not try and sell the place ourselves, just show the people round and not discuss anything; if they asked questions we should refer them back to RTA.
My husband glanced at the contract before signing, but didn't read it fully, not realising that it continued over the page. When we got home, we read the contract properly and were shocked at the content, though it wasn't easy to understand - there was virtually nothing in there about what RTA would do to sell our property, only how much it would cost us if they didn't! Why on earth do they need a confidentiality clause, we wondered? Now we know.
We contacted our solicitor the following day and he advised us that the contract offended against the Unfair Terms of the Consumer Contract Regulations 1999. We wrote to RTA stating this fact, and offering them the £500 + VAT cancellation fee, on receipt of a VAT invoice, to terminate the contract. This was sent on 28th February by Recorded Delivery, as required by the contract.
A reply was received on 3rd February, and came from Mr O'Reilly himself who was 'bemused' at the contents of our letter. He stated, " .. we have been established for over 37 years and have always utilised this contract and never once in that period of time has it been established that it 'is against the Unfair Terms and Consumer Contract Regulations of 1999' ". We now know this to be untrue (Gill Draper v. RTA Sept/Oct 2009). He said that we were bound by the terms of the contract and they could not be varied. We took this to mean that he wasn't accepting our properly submitted notice of termination, or the offer to pay the £500 cancellation fee.
On 4th February my husband had a call on his mobile from a gentleman at RTA demanding payment of the registration fee. He was referred to Mr O'Reilly.
Our 'Welcome Pack' arrived a couple of days later, on 6th February containing a request for payment of the registration fee.
On 9th February, after consulting our solicitor, we sent a reply to Mr O'Reilly's letter, advising that we were fully aware of Gill Draper's success in the Peterborough appeal court in October 2009, and that we regarded the contract as unenforceable under the 1999 Regulations. We withdrew our offer of payment, and asked that no steps be taken to advertise or market our business now or in the future.
Later that day, we received a second letter from Mr O'Reilly, dated 8th February, which included an invoice for £1762.50 for half the commission fee, due to breach of contract. He gave us 7 days to pay the registration fee or they would commence proceedings against us for recovery of the commission fee. We were somewhat surprised by this rather speedy demand for breach of contract payment only 14 days after our meeting with the rep, and wondered if they were hoping that we would pay up before we found out about Gill Draper's case?
On 16th February, when checking RTA's website, I found that our business was being offered for sale. As we had made our position perfectly clear in our letters, our solicitor suggested we ignore this.
We have had no further correspondence from RTA since the 9th February, but my husband received another call on 9th March from a gentleman asking again for the registration fee. He was referred to Mr O'Reilly.
As far as we're concerned, the matter is closed. We sent proper notice, as required in the contract, within two days of our meeting, and an offer of payment of the cancellation fee. That they chose not to accept this, insisting that the contract was still in force, is down to them.
Mal W June 2010