Alarm Bells

So despite the pretty dodgy forecasts all week it’s a lovely afternoon out, and whilst I could have been out walking around Wellington Country Park with Lucy, instead I’m writing threatening letters to a bunch of cowboys in Borehamwood writing letters to Beth about proposed litigation unless we pay them over £400.

The story goes right back to when we bought this house. During the build we specified a security system, nothing fancy, just to give peace of mind. That was fitted by the contractors chosen supplier, a company in Bristol. Roll forward ten years to 2010 and the system starts playing up and we phone the number on the front of the box and get put through to a company in London trading as Pro-Sec who it seems had bought the customer list and goodwill from the firm in Bristol when that company had closed down. They agreed to come out and take a look at the problem, do a maintenance check as one hadn’t been done for ten years, and said they would provide maintenance cover for the next year all in the one price.

It sounded like a good deal, so they came out, found that the backup battery that is supposed to be changed every two years had finally given up, put in a new battery and off they went. A short while later a letter turned up with a sales invoice, Beth having previously paid by credit card over the phone. The sales invoice confirmed we had paid for the maintenance visit and one years cover and the battery, and included the maintenance contract that they asked us to sign and send back. Beth didn’t really pay much attention to it, assumed it was as agreed, signed it and stuck it in the prepay envelope and sent it back.

When a year came around in December 2011 we didn’t hear anything from them. Our simple little system had carried on working just fine, and at that point we were in the process of selling the house anyway, so we thought nothing of it. We didn’t hear anything else from them until November 2012 when a letter turned up saying the maintenance visit was due and asking for payment for a years cover. Given that we’d not heard anything from them for two years, at the very least they didn’t seem the most organised bunch, so we had a look around for alternatives and found a local alarm specialist with glowing references on Check-a-Trade who would do the same job for a lot less than Pro-Sec were proposing to charge. When Pro-Sec phoned back to arrange an appointment Beth told them we’d found another company who were a lot cheaper, and was pretty well hung up on.

A week or two later we had a letter turn up recorded delivery from Pro-Sec saying that as we had terminated the contract within the three year minimum term of the maintenance contract we were liable for paying for the full three years – both the last year when they hadn’t bothered to contact us, and the coming year.

As you do in these situations I had a read of the maintenance contract small print (and it was very small), and it did indeed state a three year minimum term in one paragraph, however it also stated a whole load of other things, like under the contract Beth had signed the company should have been visited every six months, not every year, so there should have been another three maintenance visits. I also had a dig around about the company.

Digging through the public information was quite an eye-opener. There have actually been three Pro-Sec’s, all with the same address. We were dealing with Pro-Sec (South), although neither of the Pro-Sec’s that were still operational were actually still called Pro-Sec, the company name was now Psi Fire and Security (South) Ltd and Psi Fire and Security (North) Ltd. The credit checks for both companies were pretty dreadful, -9 as neither company actually had any directors appointed. Both companies had a raft of unpaid County Court Judgements, and neither had done their required returns to Companies House for the last year. The original Pro-Sec had been declared insolvent a few years before. The current Psi Fire and Security (South) was now trading from a totally new address in Borehamwood.

At this point we called the excellent Which Legal Service and also talked to the Consumer Advice Line, both advised that Pro-Sec, Psi or whatever they were called had breached the terms of the contract by failing to do the required service visits, and also said there were issues over the verbal agreement for one years service agreement that we’d paid for before then sending us an agreement stating something different. As a result I had a number of phone conversations with their financial controller who verbally agreed to close the account, and all seemed sorted – I drafted a letter confirming the conversation.

However we came home to a phone message from the same, now rather nervous sounding financial controller saying that we had to pay everything.

As a result I re-drafted the letter saying that we would counter claim if they pursued legal action, and sent that recorded delivery to their new address. That was signed for by the company.

I added an online company monitor for the company and in January their First Gazette notice, the start of the process to dissolve the company was posted. The First Gazette notice doesn’t give any details as to whether it is the company itself or a creditor dissolving the company, but certainly given the credit report I wasn’t surprised. Oddly enough one of the former directors, the person who still owns the domain names the company website is hosted on was then re-appointed as a director.

Then this week we got another letter, claiming to be sent by recorded delivery, but definitely not, and signed by the director himself saying that since we had not responded to any of their previous communications they were passing our account to their litigation department – bear in mind that from my previous phone calls there only appeared to be about three people in the office, and the financial controller only worked part time. That leads me to the letter I was writing this afternoon, saying much the same. To me it seems the company is getting increasingly desperate, given the credit report if we tried to sue them for breach of contract whilst that might close things off, given the raft of still outstanding CCJ’s we’d not get anything back in terms of compensation or costs, so we’re left seeing if they’re desperate enough to start small claims proceedings and counterclaiming if they do.

So would we be anywhere different if Beth had read the terms and conditions in detail? Probably not as by that point she’d already paid for the service visit that she’d verbally agreed, the only difference would be that we would be having the fight two years ago. Incidentally, they’ve changed their name again, although the company is still Psi Fire and Security, they are now calling themselves UK Pro-Sec. Same company though, just avoid if you can.

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