I’ve now discovered the biggest deterrent to using the civil courts to sue for money owed to you: attempting to pay the trial fee so you can actually defend your case.
I’m currently in dispute with a recruitment agency about a fee that I feel I should be refunded – the candidate didn’t make it past three weeks.
They disagree, and so we’ve left it to the court to decide.
The whole thing’s been going on a while, but this week I finally got the trial date confirmation.
Along with the confirmation, I received the fee request, as well as being advised that there will be NO reminders.
If I don’t show up, I automatically LOSE and I have to pay the defendant’s costs too. This got my attention.
So, feeling that there was no time like the present, I decided to pay the trial fee immediately.
The letter told me to “pay the court”, but there were two courts mentioned – Oxford and High Wycombe.
There was a web reference so that I could find out how to pay the fee, which I clicked on to discover the useless information: “there is a fee to be paid, and it depends on what court”.
Still nothing about HOW to pay it.
So, trying to avoid ringing Oxford County Court, as that was such a pleasant experience when I rang them last time, I rang the central money claims number.
They explained that I couldn’t pay them, I had to pay the court, and as the hearing would be taking place in High Wycombe, that would be the court I needed to pay.
After googling the number of the court (money claim were unable to give it to me), I rang them and got a very short message saying “If you are getting this message, all our operators are busy. Please try again later”, and hung up on me!
No waiting in the queue, nothing.
I rang back 30 seconds later, and amazingly got straight through to someone.
Who informed me that I had to pay Oxford, and – again – could not give me the number.
I rang Oxford, which is never fun, because their “Press 1 for X” system is even worse that British Telecoms.
After guessing the correct number, I did get to speak to a person, who was then able to put me through to another person who was happy to take my money.
But what a palaver!
45 minutes of calling, waiting in telephone queues, redialling, and on and on.
Anyone less bloody-minded might have given up!
And although the system might well deter people “trying it on”, it could also deter people who have a genuine case, but are not au fait with the difficulties of dealing with the Courts.
The Court would probably claim the information is all perfectly understandable and easy to access.
Their users would disagree.
How are you speaking to YOUR customers? In their language or yours? Are you making it easy for them to move through your purchasing system or are they thwarted at every turn?
At least I have my court date now, although the wheels turn amazing slowly: it is 14 months after the event occurred. Not a quick fix in anyone’s book!