UK Small Claims Court – one member’s experience

Having followed the Freelance section of the NUJ guide to pursuing non-payers in the UK Small Claims Court (see NUJ website for details), I was hoping to report success in recouping the £1,000 owed to me by Issue One magazine.

Sadly this was not to be, and now I’m a further £170 out of pocket! The online small-claims procedure at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk/ is at least easy to use, allowing non-residents to use the court to pursue money owed by UK companies, though you need a UK address you can use to receive documents.

As advised by the site, I used the Companies House register to check my defendant’s address and that they were still registered as a company. This, however, proved fallible. I paid £70 to make the claim. The defendant ignored the judgement letter.

I paid another £100 to send in bailiffs, only to discover that the defendant had moved June 2009. They had not informed Companies House and there is therefore no way of finding out where they are. Through the NUJ freelance office’s subscription to Companies House I got hold of their annual reports – showing they have nothing to seize.

Lessons learnt

  • You cannot necessarily trust friends’ recommendations (other journalists who recommended I work for this magazine were also taken for a ride).
  • Paying to look at a company’s annual reports before you decide to work for them can save you a lot of money later on.
  • The onus is on you to get the correct address for the defendant, as Companies House information is not necessarily up to date.

If anyone (photographers? fashion stylists?) hears of the whereabouts of the infamous “Paulus” – last heard of in Hong Kong – let me know. There is a crowd of angry journalists out to get him

© Alison Culliford, 2010