Update: Legal news!

Follow up to Seward Fiat Havant article.

Just received phonecall.

Apparently, Seward Fiat, Havant aren’t happy about my last article. I understand. I felt it could have been improved too.

And apparently, their solicitor will be contacting me. I doubt it’s to apologise but I might be wrong.

Man, talk about taking a situation and making it worse. I was only merely moderately upset at the quality of service I received. Now I’m pretty livid – and somewhat stressed after that phonecall – that, rather than ignore the problem or perhaps offer to talk about the issue (which would have led to a nice positive update) as good customer service might dictate, I was, instead all but threatened.

Here’s hoping that their solicitor understands that facts aren’t illegal and opinions aren’t either as far as I know, knows how to read disclaimers, understands that this site is for entertainment purposes primarily, and fully comprehends the intricacies of dealing with content physically located in America by a Malaysian host and capable – thanks to the creative commons licence employed – of being mirrored to hundreds of websites worldwide and viewed by tens of thousands of people rather than the handful who probably actually read it, especially if a load of other website owners got the idea into their heads that I might be being victimised, bullied, or coerced in some fashion. Not that I think I am at the moment, of course. So, make sure you hold your horses if you’re a website owner and are thinking of writing about this or preparing to mirror this page in some other country.

If I got a nice letter I’d probably comply with whatever legal issues were brought forth; it would be nice to know just what boundaries I might have inadvertently crossed. I hope I don’t get a nasty or threatening one. Or, better still, if the matter were simply let slide then this would probably all just blow over. Let’s wait and see.

Author: Mark

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36 Comments

  1. Ooh, how exciting is that?

    I want to be contacted by a solicitor for what I write. I don’t want to be left out!

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  2. Crumb – tut tut, that picture has nothing to do with my garage or solicitors. I even said so on the picture.

    Anni – exciting? I’ve gone through a few emotions since receiving the phonecall but a feeling of excitement wasn’t in there.

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  3. Mark, I’m so sorry – you’re right. I see that now. Silly me.

    It does look like him though.

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  4. can i be your brief Mark?
    Or would you just like a used pair of mine?

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  5. been there, done that and they backed off when I refused to be intimidated. Hope you get a lot more traffic and publicity!

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  6. No clue how the laws on slander and libel read in Europe, but here in Americaland it’s not illegal to print if it’s true. In fact, it’s not even illegal if it’s PARTIALLY true (See The Star, Globe, National Enquirer, and a few dozen other total junk made up baloney magazines).

    Anyways, good luck.

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  7. Stand your ground. You’ve got them on the run. Ask them for a free distributer cap or something.

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  8. Thanks all.

    Harley, I’ve done some checking on the libel laws over here and they used to be pretty draconian; i.e. you couldn’t badmouth a company even if what you were saying was true, period. However, thanks to integration with the EU and improved human rights laws the defence of "it’s true" is a winner these days. As for things other than facts the law of "fair comment" has a broad application and it’s perfectly fine to say you dislike someone or some site, or be downright abusive without falling foul of the law.

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  9. They really think that it’s important to go after a blog? A blog read by 0.01% of their customers, either existing or potential? Not that your readership is low; it just seems to me that most of us either live thousands of kilometres from the place or already have our own mechanics to deal with. Such pettiness.

    And I would definitely go, if I had a car and lived in the UK, if they could guarantee me that the fellows working on my car looked like the guys in your photo that is not of anyone who works there. Now they’ve lost the very lucrative Canadian gay market.

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  10. …oooooo – I need to link to this again now :^)…

    (can never remember how to pronounce the word – is it pronounced controversy or controversy :^) )

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  11. Thanks to their solicitors, billy posted a link s o I had to follow it, to this delightful blog that I’ve never read before, and now I know that Fiat Havant appear to be amoral crooks purely because their solicitor made it apparent to me. Isn’t that some sort of conflict of interest on his part, going about publicising the shoddy services of his crooked clients? Allegedly.

    Hope they keep going, and you make it into the Guardian’s media blog, Mark, then even more Havant dwellers can be enlightened by this forward thinking solicitor.

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  12. Of course it’s exciting Mark! You must admit, after the initial shock, didn’t you feel a little thrill run through your soul at how you can REALLY make them look like fuckwits now? And yeah, of course you will make it into the media … and then hundreds of people will come look at your blog … and you will become famous … and people you know will read it … and you will stop writing about your life in case people you know read it … whoops, maybe not such a good thing 🙁

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  13. Hmm. Be blunt, brisk, & unhelpful with the solicitor, but be a little cautious and stick to some standard legal-special-meaning phrases.

    I’m off the pace re EU law’s current re-creation in UK but be aware that EU law is only Persuasive in the UK not binding, until such time as the matching law is passed in the UK.
    The old UK position is that Defamation has occurred if they can prove the publication caused or could be expected to cause Loss, eg loss of business & consequent revenue. The (Actual/Expected/Estimated) Loss is recoverable in Tort.
    Truth is not a defence by itself.
    True And In The Public Interest <b><i>is</i></b>.

    Suggest you put together some arguments linking your blog post to public interest (e.g. preventing other people from wasting time & money, and so on; point out that there was no distortion of truth in the facts as presented)

    "Mere Abuse" (a legal term: use it: it will flag to the solicitor you know what you’re doing) is specifically NOT actionable in Tort, ie they can not recover any damages or injunct you for it. Strange but true. So feel free to keep calling them cocksuckers. ("Not that there’s anything <i>wrong</i> with that.")

    CAVEATS:
    1/ the courts+judges may be anticipating the future EU position already
    2/ the EU position may even have come into force in the UK by now

    But as it stands, they don’t have a leg to stand on. Be clear on this to their solicitor.

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  14. Sorry to hear about this man. I’ve had to refrain from writing certain things on my site for fear of ramifications such as this. I hope it all blows over and no one gets hurt (read: you).

    May the schwartz be with you.

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  15. Billy sent me too. That was a damn fine post.

    I seem to recall a story from years back that I saw on Top Gear. This was when it was about car reviews and consumer affairs and not the current ‘Clarkson and sycophants’ model. Some bloke got pissed off with his car dealers shoddy aftersales service so he put a load of posters in his car windows explaining exactly what had gone wrong with the car and what the dealership had done about it (which was sweet f.a.). Then he used to park it outside the dealership’s forecourt and leave it for the day. I think they tried to sue him as well. They failed.

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  16. Wow. I too came here from Billy’s and am offering good anti-solicitor-type vibes…

    Hippie x

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  17. Surly, you doubt the awesome power of bloggers en mass? Have you never Googled ‘miserable failure’?

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  18. * resists the urge to add George W Bush to the bracketed list in Harley’s first comment *

    Mark, that was a(nother) brilliant post. I’ve no idea of the legal side of things but other commenters seem pretty clued up and they’re confident that you’re in the clear. We put up with so much crap in this country, good for you for (a) taking a stand; (b) writing about it publicly and (c) making us laugh like drains.

    If companies are going to send their legal bods to start waving their briefs at every negative comment and opinion expressed on the internet, won’t that bring an end to customer reviews at places like Amazon, Kelkoo, Dabs, et al? Or can we only say good things about products? Harrumph.

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  19. Wow.

    I take an evening away from the computer to depress myself watching a dreary game of football and return to this incredible show of solidarity. I’m touched. My whole family said so from a very early age and now it appears they’re right.

    Great information saltation, and many thanks to everyone else. Checking raw access logs from yesterday and doing some investigation work of my own I was able to determine that their solicitors did indeed look around the site. As such I expect I’ll receive my letter today. Just have to wait to get home from work now to make the next move.

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  20. Billy sent me too!

    2 excellent acticles – look forward to the updates to this story!

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  21. Damn solicitors… united we can defeat the system. Or get intimidated trying… big bullies

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  22. Don’t fret about the solicitors. It is a silly move on their part because them getting a solicitor involved will create much more of a stir around blogworld than the post every would. If they take you to court you’d become a blogcelebrity. (not that you would want it).

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  23. Surly’s link was great fun – particularly this line: "Do bloggers have the credentials of real journalists? No. Bloggers are hobby hacks, the Internet version of the sad loners who used to listen to police radios in their bachelor apartments and think they were involved in the world.

    Bloggers don’t know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon. Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square — without editors, correction policies or community standards. And so their tripe is often as vicious as it is vacuous."

    Made me split my sides. Some outmoded journo needs a hug.

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  24. Can’t see anything dodgy in your article which is a balanced description of a customer receiving poor service for a large company.

    Kick them in the fuck, I say.

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  25. The expected letter has not materialised. It hasn’t even been posted using normal and non-futuristic methods. This could be good news or it could be because solicitors in general never take 20 minutes to do something when it can be strung out for several days and billed to the client. Anyhoo, thanks again to all those who expressed support and I will, of course, keep everyone informed should any new developments occur.

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  26. Think about it this way:

    You appear to have done nothing wrong.

    And it appears that perhaps now Seward Fiat are being shafted by their solicitors.

    Smile 🙂

    PS: offering to publish their version of events may counteract potential defamation claims. Though if they wanted people to read it, I’d suggest to them that they ought to make it funny and amusing. You never know, it might even be a good read.

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  27. Hi, I’ve come over from Daisy’s – how did the garage find out about this, do they google themselves everyday or something?

    You have my support!

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  28. Have they fixed your mirror problem though?

    If not, and you paid by credit card, and they didn’t give you a refund at the time of their initial failed repair, it might be worth registering a payment dispute with the cc company concerned. Because I wouldn’t fancy having to take the car back to that garage after all that has happened… (whether you’d win or not I don’t know as the cc company would probably say you should give them the chance to fix the problem).

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  29. Hi, Daisy sent me over. I’ve read your article, and found it very funny. Dredging up what I can remember of the law of slander from my law degree many moons ago, the truth has always been a defence to slander. Pursuing you may well far more trouble and money than it’s worth- ie they’re just trying to put the frighteners on you.

    It seems to me that they bring the same delightful, edgy tactics to all their business dealings, whether on the shop floor or in the boardroom. It is certainly not the best way to treat customers, and now everyone knows about it.

    And how did they find out? Do they scan their stats?

    Hang in there!

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  30. BW – Yes, the wing mirror was fixed. When they’ve actually done work it has been absolutely fine. The thing was that in this case it seemed to me that they did the work, knew it wasn’t right, but were prepared to let me find out for myself. That’s how it appeared. This meant that I needed two trips to the garage, meaning I had to take time off work in each case, and make two not insignificant roundtrips mileage-wise to get it sorted. This caused my Irish blood to simmer. This led to the article.

    Katherine – not sure how they found out. Pretty fast, though. One week exactly from posting to obviously-meant-to-be-intimidating phonecall.

    I’m still waiting for the letter. May have to phone them up and chase it. You know: there should be a law against telling someone they’ll be receiving a letter from solicitors and then not following through.

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  31. Mark – just thinking some more… as e says, I suspect they’re just trying to frighten you.

    But – I’d ring another couple of main dealers and ask them for a price for the part, and also for the part + labour, to check the going rate/time (the amount of time they claimed it took to do this seems excessive to me – thinking about how long it would take Mr BW – who isn’t a car mechanic, but is very handy) to do a job like this. Maybe you paid for their time in trying to med a defe tive mirror? if it was defective, it wasn’t the new part you paid for either. Hmmm… interesting legal aspects to that methinks.

    *If* the solicitor does get in touch with you, I’d counter-claim your wasted time off work, extra fuel costs etc etc and (if other garages say they would charge less, the difference in cost).

    And remember – there are a hell of a lot of people out in blogland who will make a hell of a lot MORE bad publicity for them. And the local press will, of course, pick it up… And I could do a spell 😉

    Not that *I*’m threatening them, of course, but…

    Rather than directing their time, money and energy towards you, who have had your rights as a customer infringed, they’d be better directing them to looking at ways of improving their own procedures for customer care and checking that work has been satisfactorily completed (the nail/tyre episode is something you could take to Trading Standards after all…).

    But it’s always easier for people in the wrong to threaten, be negative and apportion blame rather than work to restore a customer’s faith.

    Is it any wonder people run off to small independent garages as soon as their cars are out of the restrictive warrnty periods? There is very little profit in new cars. All the profit is in repairs, servicing and bodywork.

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  32. And guess what, I think the solicitors in question have just paid BW a visit 🙂

    They’re obviously watching you… and your informed commentators…

    In case they don’t understand Google rankings, pehaps you’d like to explain to them how little time it will take the number of Google 5 ranked sites who’ve already expressed an interest to elevate this to well, ‘heights their client wouldn’t like’ if pushed 😉

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  33. FYI On wheels24.co.za :

    Mechanic jailed for not fixing car

    12/10/2004 07:12
    A car mechanic has been jailed for not doing work he had been paid for on a customer’s car that wouldn’t start.

    British motor mechanic Adrian Nye has been jailed for 4 months under the Trade Descriptions Act.

    He appeared in Guildford Crown Court after a customer from Milford, Surrey, phoned Auto Services, Godalming, complaining about a car which would not start.

    Nye collected the car and returned it after 2 days together with an invoice from a company called Godalming Car Care.

    The invoice, for 288.62 GBP, was in respect of a new fuel pump.

    The car was later inspected by the AA, after it broke down. The inspection revealed that the car’s fuel pump had not been touched nor replaced.

    Pleading not guilty, Nye (34), was convicted of two offences under the Trade Descriptions Act, relating to work which had not been carried-out, and of one offence of failing to put his business address on an invoice.

    Interresting!

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  34. Have you removed all reference to the name of the offending (and offensive) solicitors? I am sure the name was in the post last time I looked…

    What’s the progress with this? I’m intrigued!

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  35. I never named the solicitors and, to be fair, since they never got in touch directly with me I don’t see any need to. Subsequently, as you may have guessed, the progress is, well, nothing. Since I know that the solicitors did look around the site from site logs and over a week has passed I have to assume that the solicitors got back to Sewards and told them they didn’t have a case. An anticlimax to the whole affair but a welcome one from my point of view.

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