Step 1. Attempt to Resolve Problem
Before you go to court, you must try and settle a claim before taking court action. If you don't try to settle first, the court may penalise you.
If you've got an issue about faulty goods, you must try to resolve the situation yourself first. For example if your TV's stopped working, contact the shop first in writing. Say you'll giving them a reasonable time to reply (eg a month), and that you'll take court action if they don't reply by then.
You could also try mediation, if the other party agrees - a third party will try to help both parties agree on a solution. There's usually a fee for this.
If you're disabled, you should check the court's facilities online. If you can't get into the court because of your disability, the case may be transferred to a more suitable court.
Step 2. Identify the Defendant
Often, you know exactly who you want to prosecute, but sometimes, especially with scammers it can be difficult to identify the company or person you want to sue. The process cannot start until you know who to specify on the court documents. Companies House records can sometimes help or determined searching on the Internet or looking for examples where other people have been scammed by the same fraudster and may have identified the culprit.
Step 3. Legal Advice
Legal advice can be a huge help in many cases but this does cost money and that puts a lot of people off. For many, dealing with a solicitor is not their first choice – Citizen’s Advice can in some cases be of great help and there is extensive information available on the Internet. Be careful though as some information on the Internet is merely opinion dressed up as fact.
Step 4 Evidence
You will need solid evidence to support your case. All relevant documentation needs to be collected. Any emails, records of phone conversations, credit card statements, bank statements, payments etc. are all essential to proving your case. If you claiming damage rather than just financial loss then you need evidence for that, where possible.
Step 5. The Small Claims Court
The Small Claims court is setup to be as easy as possible and fairly cheap for anyone to sue an individual or businesses that has defrauded them in some way. It is normally for cases where less than £10,000 is in dispute.
The most common claims are:
• bad service compensation e.g. by a plumber or hairdresser
• faulty goods e.g. a television or mobile phone
• disputes with landlords over damage
Step 6. Make a Claim
You can claim on paper but it’s easier to do so online and the system helps you as go along.
https://www.gov.uk/make-money-claim-online is the official government website.
To use the online service you need to have a Government Gateway login and password. If you don’t have this then get it in advance as it will take days to receive the details in the post. Go to http://www.gateway.gov.uk/
Step 7. What Happens Next?
On receiving the court documents, the defendant can choose to accept that they owe the money and agree to pay it – so there’s no need for a court case.
If the defendant doesn't respond to the court documents, then the claimant can ask for an order to be made against them.
If the defendant does reply to the court then the court considers the documents and decides which legal track to allocate the case to.
Step 8. The Notice of Allocation and Directions
For a small claims court case, both parties will be sent a form called a 'notice of allocation'. The form says what you'll have to do to prepare for the hearing (the date and location are set).
You might be told to send copies of documents you'll be using at the hearing to the court in and the other party at least 14 days before the hearing.
Step 9. The Hearing
You chose whether you wish to attend the hearing. If you don’t then the court will deal with the claim in your absence.
Step 10. Judgement
The majority of cases are dealt with quickly and a judgement issued. If that’s on the claimant’s side then the court will order the defendant to pay.
There were 21,860 County Court Judgements against business in England and Wales during the first three months of 2016, a 17 percent fall on the same period the previous year and the lowest first quarter since the financial crisis high of 71,867 judgments in Q1 2009.
The number of such judgements against individuals is far higher.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.