Commercial disputes can be expensive and stressful. Even minor disagreements can escalate to the point where they threaten your business and your livelihood.
Yet if you supply or buy goods and services as part of your day-to-day dealings, it is almost inevitable that disputes will arise between your business and another at some point. According to government statistics, in 2016 there were 5.5 million businesses in the UK – which makes for plenty of other companies and methods of working to clash with.
To resolve disputes and work toward the result you’re looking for, you may need specialist advice. At First4Lawyers, speaking to our trained advisors will put you on track to getting all the help and guidance you need.
What are goods and services disputes?
Goods and services disputes are disagreements that arise when one party does not – or is perceived not to – supply goods or services in accordance with the terms of a commercial contract.
It could focus on late payment or refusal to pay for the goods and/or services in question, defective goods, or low-quality workmanship.
How should I go about resolving a dispute against me or my business?
If someone from another business raises a dispute against you, it is likely that you will want to reach a solution quickly for the good of your cash flow, reputation, and future health of your business. With this in mind, there are a few cardinal rules you should follow when negotiating a resolution:
- Try to reach an amicable settlement.
- Assess the strength of the case against you at an early stage.
- Seek expert legal advice to help decide whether you can settle the dispute early on, or whether it needs to go to court.
- You must prepare for a protracted battle if the dispute goes in front of a judge.
- Consider if you’d rather accept a reasonable offer, potentially with the guidance of a solicitor, rather than going to court.
What should I do if someone threatens to sue me over a goods and services dispute?
If you receive a threat of court action in written form, then you must take it seriously. Do not ignore the issue; it is likely the court will require a response from you by a set date. If you wish to deny the claim against you, responding within the deadline is your best hope of minimising the damage.
The point at which the dispute goes to court is also the stage that your costs will start to rise. With this in mind, it may be best to try and resolve the issue before it gets to this stage.
How do I sue someone?
Firstly, you must establish whether or not you have a legal basis for a claim against the other party. To do this, it would be advisable to consult a solicitor.
Secondly, you must tell the other party in writing that you are considering taking them to court. This is the other party’s opportunity to put things right by paying their debt to you, giving you a refund, or agreeing to some other form of settlement that you are willing to accept.
If they fail to settle the issue – and you have a strong case – you may be able to proceed with a claim.
To start court proceedings, you must fill out a claim form and send it to the appropriate court (for example, your local County Court), together with the details of your claim and your fee.
If the other party intends to fight the claim, the court will send the case on one of three tracks:
- Small claims track - for claims up to £10,000 (£3,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
- Fast track - for claims between £10,000 and £25,000.
- Multi-track - for more complicated claims with a value of £25,000 or more.
The court will make an 'order for directions'. This sets out how and when the involved parties must disclose documents, the schedule and so on. This allows you and the other party to prepare for the trial.
Finally the claim will be 'listed' for trial before a judge, who will then decide the outcome.
What will a solicitor do for me that I couldn't do for myself?
Instructing a commercial solicitor with the relevant experience should give you the best chance of seeing the resolution you want.
Here at First4Lawyers, we tailor our work on your dispute to your commercial needs and expectations. If you find yourself mired in a commercial quarrel, our solicitors can analyse its legal basis. They will also be able to provide impartial advice on the strengths and weaknesses of your position, as well as the costs and outcomes of each of the options available to you.
For help and expert legal guidance every step of your case, speak to us at First4Lawyers.