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HARASSMENT

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Law exists to protect consumers from the aggressive pursuit of agreed debts or disputed charges.  It is a criminal offence and civil remedy is available if you are harassed.

There are many complaints about charges made by Peverel related companies, including unfair exit and transfer fees subject to OFT ruling, inflated sub-let and admin charges, and so on.  However, demanding what you consider to be unfair charges is not necessarily harassment, as the guidance  from Citizens Advice makes clear.

Actual harassment could mean that charges or debts have been demanded with threats, bills have been sent repeatedly which they know are not payable, you have disputed charges using agreed complaints procedures but credit control keep sending demands or adding penalty fees.  If you feel harassed by the methods and handling of the charge or debt, it probably means you have been harassed – if you put in writing that you feel harassed and they ignore it, you are certainly being harassed.

Examples

 Estates & Management Ltd collect ground rents and charges for property companies which are or have been related to the Peverel group, including Fairhold and Proxima.  In 2005-06 they were the subject of a parliamentary motion supported by 41 MPs about their charging behaviour, including a description which is familiar …

 “leaseholders send cheques for ground rents to this company by recorded delivery which are not banked, yet the company continues to send out penalty notices for late payment, with administrative and late payment charges added on“

The full motion EDM 342 2005-2006 

While this seems to indicate harassment, or otherwise unfair demanding of charges, we are not aware of a prosecution or civil case, and successive governments do not seem to have taken action against Estates & Management Ltd nor its parent Fairhold Services.

Another parliamentary motion was tabled in 2010 which identified the anxiety caused by ever-increasing charges raised by unscrupulous retirement developments – the motion EDM 934 2010-2012  was supported by 31 MPs but did not name Peverel Retirement specifically.

The most celebrated case involving persistent demands for charges which were not due may seem familiar too.  A case of harassment to answer was shown in Ferguson v British Gas Trading [2009].  Ms Ferguson had switched suppliers, repeatedly informed BG that all charges due had been paid and the account settled in writing which was acknowledged, but she continued to receive relentless demands for months afterwards.  A neat summary is provided with thanks to Attey Solicitors.

You can also read the full case here

As the judge pointed out, this is not for the faint hearted – Ms Ferguson took on the might of British Gas in expensive legal hearings & was risking a small fortune.

We are aware of personal cases involving Peverel which may or may not amount to harassment.  These include the family of a recently deceased retirement home owner in Scotland receiving persistent demands for payment of disputed exit, transfer and contingency fees even after this was pointed out to be the subject of an ongoing investigation into unfair terms by the OFT.  When Peverel admitted they did not have a copy of the original signed lease entitling them to the charges, they continued to demand payment with threats of legal action.  Even after pointing out how insulting and upsetting Peverel were being, the continued correspondence we saw was heartless in the circumstances, pretty abrupt, and prompted the family to contact their MP. As yet we are not aware how this case has been resolved.

You may have similar cases to these, which we would like to hear about please  -  e-mail us with the details in confidence. 

The Law 

Protection from Harassment Act (1997)

This is the key legislation and seems to apply best to the case where you think Peverel or related companies may be harassing you.  Although an offence, remedy is intended through civil law so you have to sue to get just compensation.

 'A person must not pursue a course of conduct
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.'


and the law defines 'harassment' as

 “including causing alarm or causing distress and states that a 'course of conduct' must involve conduct on at least 2 occasions”

In the rejected appeal from British Gas it was judged that person can include computer generated demands. Harassment is still considered to have taken place even if the company claimed it did not know or had not authorised the behaviour, nor can they claim no harassment was caused if it was an obvious and unintended mistake (familiar as Peverel’s infamous “administrative error”).

Read the full legislation

The irony here is that Peverel cry harassment when press or campaign websites make allegations or identify staff.

Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008)

This provides legislation mainly to deal with rogue marketing and dodgy traders, but also includes familiar situations where Peverel may have used unfair commercial practices:

a) denied or obstructed access to insurance, NHBC etc

b) discouraged you from using measures available by contract or lease,

c) been aggressive, limiting your choice of course of action

d) misrepresented its membership of industry schemes

e) broken codes of conduct to which it is committed

 It is enforced through Trading Standards and the OFT.  The Consumers Association (Which?) has produced a summary

 The OFT produced an 88-page guide  or the full legislation can be downloaded here

OFT Debt Collection Guidance (2011) 

This has very recently been updated and is designed particularly to offer protection against aggressive credit companies and debt collection agencies.  Peverel have passed arrears to PDC Ltd for collection in the past.  Even where you have agreed to outstanding debts with Peverel or are in arrears, they must not pursue debts with menace or harass you.  Look at OFT’s advice or download the full guidance

The Fraud Act (2006)

 This is where you have proof that Peverel have deliberately sought to defraud you, through the false representation or manufacturing of charges, the non-disclosure of relevant information, or by act or omission have abused their position.  This is the most serious crime to which we have dedicated a page

Complain

Always complain first to the part of Peverel which you feel is demanding charges to which it is not entitled or otherwise harassing you.   Every part of Peverel will have formal complaints procedures available on their website which you should follow.

Keep a full note of all correspondence and collect evidence which demonstrates the charges are incorrect, wrongly demanded, have been paid already, or are properly in dispute.  State in writing if you feel Peverel have ignored you, or not dealt properly with your complaint, and say if you have been distressed or feel harassed by their conduct.

If you are not happy, escalate your complaint without delay, and take legal advice or guidance from Citizens Advice.

Include your local housing authority and MP in correspondence.

 

Make an official complaint to one of these agencies, or ask to make a statement at your local police station if you can show that a crime has been committed.

Trading Standards:  find your nearest local authority office here

Consumer Direct: by phone on 08454 040506.

OFT :  email to  enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk

and

if you have experienced these problems or taken steps to try and get something done please tell us in the blog on Peverel Action or in confidence to us here

 




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