Abbey: Court Hearings
Abbey Court Hearings - Important Info
22nd August 2007
If you have a hearing with Abbey sometime in the near future then expect them to turn up to request a stay. Your main objective then is to prevent that happening. You should, of course, then be 100% ready to have the claim heard there and then.
This is in fact an excellent opportunity to rack up a flurry of court decisions against Abbey on the issue of their charges, which would be excellent publicity for us and the campaign and thoroughly disasterous for them. The barrister will almost certainly not have instructions to defend the claim, so if you successfully resist the stay attempt you in effect have an open goal.
There is some additional stuff below to take and learn so as you are well prepared to wipe the floor with them.
Make sure you get your bundle and witness statement in to the court and Abbey beforehand, in compliance with the directions order.
See the bundle and witness statement here -
If you have not used that witness statement, you should submit it ASAP in replacement for whatever you did use. It shouldn't matter that its late if your hearing is in the small claims track, unless you were given an order with a strict deadline.
Have a good read of the statement and get an understanding of the main points. You should also draw up some case notes. With Abbey the argument is reletively simple - the charges clearly arise from breach of contract, so all you need to do is demonstrate to the balance of probabilities that the amount they charge you is well out of preportion to their actual costs. The contents of the bundle should provide you with enough evidence to meet that standard fairly comfortably. Especially important is the Competition Commission report, becouse Abbey were one of the banks who actually submitted data to the Commission.
Firstly, don't panic. Small claims court is nothing to fear. Nobody expects you to be or know as much as a lawyer - in fact small claims court is designed especially to be used by litigants without the need for lawyers. Just be as well prepared as possible so as you understand and have confidence in your case.
Object to a stay
You need to take a second witness statement with you which contains your arguments in objection to the stay which will inevitably be proposed by Abbey's representitive.
There are 2 template statements to choose from on the site, found or linked from here -
Also, specific to Abbey claims becouse the charges arise from clear breach of contract, make sure you add at the top of the stay objections template something like this -
Also, if possible include additional points in your objections, I.e. will a stay cause you hardship? If so, include that in with as much evidence as you can to back it up.
Abbey's rep will almost certainly not have any instructions to actually defend the claim - they will be relying on getting a stay - and neither will Abbey have submitted any documents beforehand. You should make a big point of this and ask questions such as the following;
Have they complied with the courts directions? Why not? This is a final hearing - why are they not ready to defend? I've prepared my bundle dilligantly, have they got a copy? Why not? Have they even seen it? Have they turned up solely on the assuption a stay will be ordered? Isn't that a little presumptuous? I thought only the court could decide if a stay is ordered or not? What happens if the request is refused and the claim is allowed to proceed today? Why are they turning up to courts just to ask for stays after refusing to attend court for the last 18 months for "costs" reasons? Why didn't they properly apply for a stay 3 weeks ago? ... etc, etc...
If you're successful
If you persuade the judge not to order a stay, well done, next step is getting judgment.
There are 2 steps to this. First, establish that the charges arise from a breach of contract, second that the charge is excessive and unrelated to Abbey's actual costs incurred as a result of the breach. The first step is easy - as Abbey state the charges arise from a breach in their defence.
Second, as per the witness statement, you are alleging Abbey's loss from your breach of contract to be between £0.50 - £1.50 per event of default. You have much circumstantial evidence that this is the case (see bundle), and can also point to Abbey's secrecy around the nature of the "administrative expenses" which its defence states the charges to be proportionate to.
Again, you should really try to pick at the many great big holes in their case. Ask whether the "administrative expenses" are incurred manually or automatically. Ask why they have not provided evidence to substantiate the defence. Ask do they even know what the costs are? If not, why not? Abbey's rep will clearly not be able to refute any of this and if you get an answer which is questionable ask the judge to swear him/her in and ask again under oath.
Also very important evidence is the Competition Commission report, which demonstrates that Abbey are making profits from their charges and that they are unrelated to their costs.
In the alternative
There is also then the option of suggesting an adjournment of 28 days and requesting that an order is made in the meantime which obliges Abbey to disclose what their actual costs are. This would put the matter beyond doubt. Here's a suggested draft order you could propose -