Monday, 9 March 2009
Always, always, always read the contract...
This is a story about a part-time job, an events company, a printer and a magazine publisher.
About a year ago, an associate of ours worked 2 days a week, at a compny we'll call for arguments sake, Slippery Dodge & Wing it – an outfit who put on events for small business owners. During her employment, our associate was instructed by the owner of Slippery Dodge & Wing It to organise the production of a printed 6 page flyer and to arrange for it to be inserted into a major business publication. We were involved in the design of the flyer, which our associate got the business owner to sign off the whole project. It was printed, delivered, inserted and distributed as agreed.
The event came and went, and in July of last year our associate left her part-time employment with Slippery Dodge & Wing It. In September, the printer of the 6 page insert contacted HUGHES|DESIGN, and wanted to know if we had heard from Slippery Dodge & Wing It recently. As they still hadn't bene paid by Slippery Dodge & Wing it for the February print job. All we could say was sorry to hear that. Our associate no longer worked there, but we'll mention it to Slippery Dodge & Wing It.
In early November 2008 our associate, answers the door to her home to find a bailiff standing there.
"Are you X of Slippery Dodge&Wing It?" he asks. She replies that she no longer works for them. He informs her she has a CCJ against her and 7 days to find seven thousand pounds or else he'll be coming back for her stuff. All she can think: WHAT??? The Bailiffs have come for her, because Slippery Dodge & Wing It haven't paid their bill to the publisher of the magazine that their flyer was inserted into.
On further investigation, it becomes clear that this publisher doesn't muck about when it comes to chasing invoices. They issue it, and if you don't pay it in 30 days, they pass it onto debt collection – who are a rather obtuse bunch based in Merseyside. They claim to have written letters to our associate addressed to X of Slippery Dodge & Wing It at Slippery Dodge & Wing It central London office. The business owner of Slippery Dodge & Wing It, lets call him, James Nicholas, received these letters and chose to ignore them – why? Because X didn't work there anymore and the publishers invoice wasn't made out to Slippery Dodge & Wing It "Ltd". So therefore he felt confident he could ignore it, and it would just go away.
Naturally our associate was incensed by this – and so began a long and expensive procedure of having to clear her name. Initially, any correspondence she had with the Merseyside Debt Collecters was met with with one line curt reponses. Requests for copies of the paper work were denied. When a stay of execution was requested the county court agreed and they also agreed to have it rehaeard at a local court. But, the publisher and their debt collectors still refused to negotiate or listen to her version of events. Nicholas James of Slippery Dodge & Wing It offered, to pay the invoice if it was reissued to Slippery Dodge & Wing It "ltd" but refused to pay any court fees.
At this point, our associate decided it was time to get her own solicitor involved. She explained the sitiuation, the solicitor read through the correspondence and wrote one letter to the Merseyside Debt Collectors spelling out his clients position and inacted a procedure where he "joined" Slippery Dodge & Wing It to the case. Merseyside Debt Collectors suddenly became very talkative and agreed to drop the case and not pursue our associate any further for the money - but only if she agreed not to be compensated. Unbelievably, this episode cost our associate nearly a £1000 in legal fees, plus hours of lost time, not to mention a whole lot of stress.
You'd be right to ask at this point, "Blimey! How did all this happen?" Well, it turns out that there is a clause in the contract that publishers present you with when you take out an advert or insert in their publications:
“the Buyer” shall mean the person placing the order for an Advertisement, whether or not that person is the Advertiser.
What this means is that if you, on behalf of your employer or a client, place an advert and that client or employer refuses to pay the bill, if your name is on the invoice, you will be pursued for the money. Now, we think this is outrageous. This clause can make an employee liable for the debt of their unscrupulous employer and the employer is under has no legal obliagtion to protect it's employees.
But the good news is, becuase of the recession, as advertisers, we now have a bit more leverage with the publications, which is why since the beginning of 2009, we insist that that clause is removed before we place an advert with anyone, and we advise all our clients to do the same. But even if you're not a client, we tell anyone who cares to listen, " If your boss (or client) asks you to take out an advert on their behalf, do it, but do it in their name."
As we said at the beginning, always, always, always read the contract...