It’s called the tipping point. Individually and as an industry we all have one, it’s the point when enough is enough and action has to be taken.
My tipping point arrived last April.
Previously I had suffered from two fraudulent attempts to empty my wallet by one West Country CMC that subsequently suffered enforcement by the MOJ. Unfortunately a little slap and a ticking off is of small consequence when the reward for chicanery and sharp practice can be £000s.
For too long advisers have had to assume the position and endure the aftermath of devious and predatory claims management companies running rampant without effective challenge.
Readers will know that I have long lamented the ease with which CMCs are able to draft barely literate letters suggesting mis-selling and containing detailed lists of rule breaches. These claims are supposedly on behalf of their clients – many of who remain totally unaware of the allegations being levelled or only believe they have been mis-sold because of false claims made by the claims management company.
Such complaints waste time and money and may even involve the intrusion of an Ombudsman investigation even when no product exists and therefore no mis-selling can be present.
Matters will be different from now on because on October 9th Accrington County Court issued a verdict which will have a profound impact on CMCs and their future behaviour.
In April I received a grammatically inept letter from Aims Reclaim, a trading title of Aims Legal Ltd, a Blackburn-based CMC. Aims Reclaim and its parent company currently operate under special measures imposed by the MOJ.
Their letter requested the return of my client’s premiums in line with FOS guidelines listing specific seven allegations relating to a PPI plan. I have never arranged PPI so my sharp retort threatened legal action for defamation.
Aims Reclaim refused to retract so I invoiced them for £100, for wasting 40 minutes of my time. This they declined to pay, citing an obligation to investigate under FCA rules.
As a result I commenced a small claims action, which they chose to defend thereby resulting in a four-hour train journey to Accrington court.
Having heard my representation, and having seen a letter from the client confirming that no such allegations had been made by her, the Judge invited Aims Reclaim to present its case. Its representative claimed that the letter was merely an ‘enquiry’. Judge rejected this pointing out that it contained seven specific allegations.
After studying case law the Judge established that Aims Reclaim owed a duty of care and that their letter, with its unsubstantiated allegations, had breached that duty. The descriptive she used was “lamentable” and I was awarded my £100 plus costs.
Aims Reclaim then had the audacity to request a confidentiality clause, which the Judge summarily refused.
What does this mean for advisers?
Firstly, it is clear that should any CMC send a letter listing alleged breaches, which have not been specified by their client, then they are likely to find themselves receiving an invoice for wasting the adviser’s time.
Secondly, professional liars who claim to work on behalf of their client will have to extend far greater caution because I, and no doubt others, will have no hesitation in repeating this exercise.
Thirdly, can I ask that the banks, building societies and insurers follow this example? If every unwarranted fishing expedition and fraudulent attempt was met with an invoice then the present plague of CMCs would be cured.
It is far too easy for advisers who have wasted their time investigating erroneous or fraudulent claims to simply breathe a sigh of relief when able to put the matter to bed. However, it is only by exposing these claims and ensuring CMCs pay the price that we can start to cure the industry of this canker.
Highclere Financial Services
As many will know, Alan and I have been on a bit of a crusade against CMC’s for some time, more of which can be found on this site. This case should be taken as setting a precedent, all firms should now look carefully at claims coming in from CMC’ s and if they fit the ‘tipping point too far’ category, follow Alan’s lead.
You can see the court judgment documents here
Advisers may not be aware but during the summer the Claims Management Regulation Unit revised and re-issued their Publication Policy to give them more scope to publish action taken against CMCs. This was ahead of development of their website to include an ‘Enforcement’ page where you can find recent enforcement action and current/ongoing investigations. The page can be found here –https://www.claimsregulation.gov.uk/enforcement.aspx – with enforcement actions and investigations on separate tabs.
Finally, and I would appreciate any adviser or compliance feedback on this. If you see clearly false claims coming in from CMC’s, possibly even from clients, immediate recourse to the courts ‘could’ place a stop on the matter going to the FOS as they cannot investigate cases if legal action in regard to the matter is underway?