Times are tough enough for shop owners without being hounded by a bunch of chancers.
Like Rating and Valuation Company Limited, a firm that claims to help cut business rates.
I’ve heard from retailers who say they have been hit with hefty invoices by this company, even though it has not reduced their rates.
It wants a 15% commission from its clients off the back of the business rates cuts announced by the Government, first to help fight the High Street slump and then to help survive lockdown.
“Rating And Valuation Company challenged my rates with the Valuation Office Agency but this was rejected and so was their appeal,” said Mr Sibson.
“They achieved nothing, the only rates reduction has been entirely due to the Government.
“I have a witness to my meeting with their representative at which he categorically stated that I would not have to pay anything unless their company achieved a reduction.”
Rating And Valuation is claiming commission on the Government announced reductions, pointing to a clause in very small print that states it can claim commisison following a rates reduction “whether or not achieved by Rating And Valuation Company”
The invoice it sent to Mr Sibson comes to £5,059 including legal costs.
The correct way of dealing with a disputed debt like this is to take the matter to a County Court for a judge to decide.
But Rating And Valuation Company is trying to circumvent accepted court procedure by issuing a statutory demand without any hearing.
The order states: "We seek to issue a winding up order to the company and will seek bankruptcy on any directors."
Another of its clients is Tommy Badham of Worcester restaurant Ostlers. He is so angry that he's set-up a Facebook page called Rating and Valuation Company - Scam
“They have invoiced me for 15% of the reduction the government has awarded because of Covid-19,” he says.
“They are threatening me that if I don’t pay this plus a £200 administration fee I will have to pay a termination fee £995 plus VAT and court fees which could end up between £5,000 and £6,000.
“I have been in touch with my local council and was told that Rating And Valuation Company have made two challenges against my business rates, the first was rejected and the second is still ongoing.”
Hylton Haylett runs the Oak Inn in Staplow, Herefordshire, and describes Rating and Valuation Company as bullies after being billed for a supposed rates reduction.
“Their representative told me that I had a very very good chance of a rates reduction and should not have been paying rates at all,” he said.
“We checked with the Valuation Office and found that their challenge on our behalf had been rejected.
“We went back to them and said they'd lied to us and wanted nothing more to do with them, so they then sent an invoice for a £900 termination fee and £200 administration fee.
“When the government announced the Covid-19 rates suspension they sent another £900 invoice, claiming 15% of the saving that they had had absolutely nothing to do with.
“They wanted £2,700 in 14 days and I got an email threatening me with a winding-up order if I did not pay.”
Andrew James runs family firm James Furnishers in Rugeley, Staffs.
“Their sales rep said that all our neighbours were paying less than us and we could get back around £36,000 backdated over five years,” he said.
“We paid £1,200 upfront but would get it back if they did not recover anything, so they said it was risk-free, and they would get 15% of any reduction.”
He says “You literally need a magnifying glass to read the small print on the back of contract” and insists that the crucial clause in which they can claim commission even if someone else achieves a rates reduction “should be in readable font on the front”.
Now he's been billed for £2,840 after the Government announced it was suspending business rates.
“They threatened to have my company wound-up,” he says.
“They're just trying to see if we will buckle and my advice to anyone in the same position is do not pay.”
“We have invoiced as per the terms and conditions of our agreements,” she told us.
“We do genuinely try to help each of our clients to the best of our ability and obtain them the correct rates.
“You will find that with all of the aforementioned clients we are legally entitled to our fee.”
Although the firm claims that it employs surveyors, she admitted they are not chartered surveyors.
“We are not chartered because we do not need to be, we have helped and achieved rates reductions for many clients and we charge one of the smallest fees in the field.”
As for complaints about the small print, she responded: “As a business contract, it is legally the client’s responsibility to read the contract, the presenting business does not need to go through any terms.
“Yet we do sit with the clients and try and explain things.”
It has not yet sued any client, so the contracts have not been tested in court.