Thursday, 18 July 2013

Leodis Sports Management Limited - F1 Silverstone 2013

I am very keen to ensure this post is absolutely factually correct, given that LSM seem to be threatening to take action for defamation over my previous blog posts.

We were offered F1 tickets for Silverstone 2013 as a "package" and I thought it would be a good idea as most of the staff are keen on F1.

I spoke to LSM on the phone, and we agreed an "all in" price. I have the call recording of this. They gave the impression that it was somewhat urgent, and sent a booking form to be signed and sent back right away to secure the tickets. I signed and sent back.

The original details, and the telephone call, and the large print at the top of the booking form were very clear - they stated the venue and date, and stated the package price, the VAT and the total. Then there are a list of detailed terms, which is known as "small print" and was in fact print that was very small. This included a statement that a ten percent booking fee would be invoiced at a later date, 4 weeks before the event.

I signed the terms without reading all of them in detail - after all the key matters of the contract had been agreed on the phone - what we were getting, and how much "all in". The figures on the top of the contract were as agreed, good.

I was, of course, concerned, that this was a scam. We had to pay in full up front [except that it wasn't actually in full was it?]; then we were told we would not get the tickets until a few weeks before the event; then this booking fee invoice arrived (which was, in fact 20% of the package price, not 10%); we were told we had to pay before getting tickets. We paid, under duress, obviously; what choice did we have? Then we were sent an itinerary and wrist bands, but not tickets. We were then told we would get tickets on the day. You can, perhaps, see why I was concerned that this was some sort of scam (and I said as much on my previous blog post).

The one bit of good news here is that the tickets were real. When we arrived we got tickets, and breakfast. We got the meal after the event, and so on. The meal was in a private room in the adjacent hotel - that was, apparently, the "private suite" part of the "Grand Prix Race Day". I do not personally believe it was what I was led to expect or that it was particularly good value for money, but in that respect it was not actually quite a scam, so my fears were somewhat unfounded.

I do apologise to LSM if anybody thought it was an outright scam, although I think I did make it clear that it was simply a concern that I had, and not an allegation or accusation, just a fear.

However, we are still left with this "booking fee". On the day we got the invoice we queried it, and were told that it was on the contract. Only when I said I had checked the call recording and the price had been agreed "all in" did I get an immediate email saying that I would get a credit right away. They don't even deny saying they agreed an "all in" price.

Eventually, after some chasing, we got half of the booking fee. After more chasing we are now told that they will not be refunding the rest - that I signed a contract, and that is it; that they did make a mistake charging 20% not 10% and refunded the difference but no more.

My view is that we agreed a price "all in" and they then did not honour that. My view is that they then agreed to credit the booking fee - my email was very specific about the amount and the reason for asking for it back and they agreed to credit. Now they are refusing to.

This is where we get in to opinions to some extent...

I personally cannot see any valid commercial reason for the price quoted not to include the 10% booking fee. It is not like VAT (which they did quote on the booking form) where we may be able to reclaim the VAT and as a business transaction the VAT is irrelevant - the booking fee is always part of what we have to pay for the package. If they can tell me some legitimate reason for not including the booking fee in the "headline" price, then I'll let you know - I just cannot see one.

In my personal opinion, the only reason one puts this booking fee in as a separate item in the small print, and not in the main details on the invoice or the original advert or the telephone call is to catch people out. They admit that other companies have been caught out by this, so they know it happens. We have a call recording of this admission. If the purpose was not to catch people out, why not change the form and processes when previous customers had been? Why keep doing this knowing you are catching people out and annoying customers unless that was the intention in the first place?

In my personal opinion, the only reason to invoice the booking fee separately, later, is to ensure that customers cannot back out - having paid the bulk up front which is, by then, non refundable, customers are stuck and have to pay. Indeed, they have a cancellation allowed up to 16 weeks before the event, but they don't invoice the booking fee until 4 weeks before, ensuring it is always too late to back out.

These last points are my personal opinions here, and I am happy to entertain other possible reasons and welcome LSM commenting on this themselves.

It is a shame - they are clearly concerned over my previous posts - when they said they were going refund the booking fee I explained that I was happy to post a positive blog post about how they were "true to their word" and so on. Sadly they have chosen to take this rather negative view on the matter. Pity.

I hope this post serves as a warning to people to check the small print, always.

11 comments:

  1. What would have happened if the booking fee had gone unpaid? After all, the booking won't be fully "confirmed" until the booking fee has been paid (as you haven't paid for the booking itself) and therefore the original money should be refundable as there isn't a booking for the money to go towards..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Their terms are that we would not get a refund!

      Delete
    2. Is that even legal under the DSR?

      Delete
    3. Not sure DSR would have helped because of the time frames.

      Delete
  2. It's about time that "small print" was made unenforceable. When suppliers print contract terms in tiny grey print on a grey background, what reason can there be other than an intent to discourage the customer from reading them? It's quite amusing when a supplier hands me a pen, expecting me to sign a contract immediately, and then is astonished when I make it clear that I intend to read every word, no matter how long it takes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Adrian - I think I would just issue a Small Claims for the remainder of the deposit

    @Mike - I do this too now - and have for a while - bizarrely they get annoyed in many cases. I often find nasty cancellation terms. There's a certain HR company that tried to get us to sign up once, and they handed me a single bit of paper to sign up - I asked to see the Terms and they said they'd send them to me - I refused to sign something saying "I agree to the terms and conditions".

    Anyhow, they did send me the terms, and those terms include a 5 Year Contract Term, and just to make it better, if you haven't cancelled by the end of Year 4, you get renewed for another 5 years at the end because it's a 12 month notice period. Needless to say I told them to sod off.

    I now use a company that charges me a fraction, have been very good and have a one month in/out policy.

    We had a similar thing with Franking Machines - you renew to a new contract if you don't cancel for another 12 months and so on. So I signed up, and in my sign up paperwork I included my termination letter - and faxed it too. I gave notice on day 1. They told me I couldn't, I explained I could. Anything to get you renewing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a similar vein, I'm irritated by courier companies wanting a signature indicating the item was received "in good condition", but wanting it straight away, without a chance to inspect the contents! (OK, just wait there for the 24 hours while the coolant settles, then I'll be able to test this chiller and confirm it's in good condition...) On the other hand, the John Lewis delivery guy pointed out that the boxed jug which was supposed to be my brother's birthday present was making ominous "broken stuff rattling around inside" noises when handled, and was happy to send it back on the spot.

      For that matter, a telco tried to convince me to switch the business line over: 'cheaper than BT', they said. "Only £10 per month, for a year", they said. (Plus various misleading waffle about how they are "working with BT" etc, trying to imply they were something other than a rival telco using Openreach services.) Yes, slightly cheaper than BT .. for that first year, of the five they wanted you locked in for. Double the price for the other four!

      There are some legal protections - if it says in large print "Only £1000!" then the small print says "actually, £1000 plus £5000 not-reading-small-print fee", the court is liable to break out the red pen and cross out the latter version, which is nice.

      Delete
    2. Quite, our solicitors said we have a good case if we want to pursue it. They also advised that, having read the blog, they have no case for defamation, which is re-assuring.

      Delete
  4. On what basis could they take action? Everything you have said is accurate. What they should be doing is apologise and amnend their contracts.. Then they'd get positive publicity. All they're doing now is making themselves look worse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. The post was not put up to deliberately damage their reputation, but to tell the truth about what they do and make fair comment on that. Both are, as I understand it, allowed. I even gave them the chance to improve matters by simply doing what they agreed - crediting the booking fee - as that would allow me to post how they were "true to their word", etc. They decided against that, which seems a bit surprising to me if they were indeed concerned over their reputation. The act allows defences of Truth, Honest opinion, and Public interest.

      Delete
    2. Interesting "fair comment" as a defence was abolished, and replaced by "honest opinion" this year.

      Delete