It has become clear that many people would like a draft of a letter or email to send to Scottish Water Business Stream or one of the other licenced collectors when they first receive an invoice for charges that they should not be paying, or some other threat.

First Step - CHECK that your premises really is NOT an Eligible Premises under the terms of Section 27, Water Services etc. (Scotland) Act 2005.

The easy way to do this, and it is NOT complicated - anyone can do it - is to find out if your premises has either a water supply provided by Scottish Water as opposed to one that is connected to the Landlord's supply. Do the same to see if there is any drainage conection directly, not via a pipe belonging to your Landlord, to a sewer provided by Scottish Water

Second Step - Choose a letter [well the content] and send it. Below are examples of letters you might receive and the response that you may like to send. At all times be courteous even though the communication you receive will often be in what may be termed "dramatic bullying style".

An invoice

My premises have neither a Water Supply provided by Scottish Water, nor a Sewerage Connection provided by Scottish Water and thus my Premises are not Eligible Premises under Section 27 of the 2005 Water Act.

IF the demand is NOT from Scottish Water Business Stream, then query who appointed them: the law is specific and the provider of default is SWBS, not any other firm.

Final Warning of Planned Site Visit

This is one of the more stupid things that they always seem to do: Threaten to cut off your non-existent water connection !

A typical letter reads as follows - this one from Lisa Harrison of Clear Business Water - reads as follows [our notes in red]:

Your name and address

Dated

FINAL WARNING OF PLANNED SITE VISIT The heading is always in bold capitals....

Dear xxxx

Creditor Verastar Ltd t/a Clear Business Acc Ref: 999999 Amount Due: £0,000.00

We recently wrote to you in realtion to the above debt to warn you of a possible site visit. You have failed to respond to all previous reminders and have made no attempt to resolve the outstanding debt. [It is recommended that you always respond to all letters etc however daft.]

We feel that this leaves us with no alternative but to arrange for an Investigation Officer to attend your premises which ultimately may also result in the disconnection of your services. The Investigating Officer will discuss the debt with you and collect evidence to enable us to prepare for potential legal action. This will include identifying the value of your assets. If we subsequently obtain judgement against you and you fail to make payment under the judgement, we may request the seizure of your assets to the value of the debt, court costs and our costs. [It seems the Investigator will NOT try and establish whether you have a Water or Sewerage connection thus identifying if you are in an Eligible Premises or not].

Under the terms and conditions of our contract, should the Investigating Officer attend your premises you will have to reimburse us the costs of the visit and investigation which are £80 + VAT. A proforma invoice has been attached to this letter for this charge. [We doubt that you signed a contract with Verastar or any of its trading aliases or subsidiaries].

If we disconnect your services [how they will disconnect a service which is not connected in the first instance is unclear], we will also contact any relevant bodies such as Environmental Health, Care Quality Commission, Health & Safety Executive etc to make them aware of the situation. If you are a tenant at the property we will also notify the property owner. For our Water Customers we must stress that in order to have staff working on your premises it's a legal requirement to have running water facilities and you cannot transfer your water services to any other supplier whilst this debt remains unpaid. [How was the account transferred from Scottish Water Business Stream without your consent ?]

We would also like to point out that to reconnect the services once they have been disconnected due to debt issues there is an upfront charge of £650 + VAT per service which must be paid together with the outstanding balance before we will arrange reconnection. [see first note on the paragraph above...]

We remind you that interest is being added to your account, in line with our terms and conditions at a rate of 8% above Bank of England base rate. A fixed-sum charge at the level set out in the Late payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1988 has also been added to your account and you must pay reasoanble costs of recovering the debt. We are entitled to charge you interest, a fixed sum and our reasonable costs for every new instance of debt. 

What should I do next ?

To avoid the matter escalating further and an Investigating Officer attending your premises, you must call us immediately on on 0161 046 4992 to discuss your account. If you are having difficulty in paying, we may be able to arrange a payment plan, so give us a call and we can review your account.

If you do not clear the outstanding balance within the next 7 days we will be forced to arrange for an Investiagting Officer to visit your premises.

Yours sincerely, Lisa Harrison, Head  of Credit Control.

We recommend an innocuous reply as follows. You should also copy this to your Landlord.

Reply to address as per the letter

For the kind attention of Lisa Harrison, Head  of Credit Control.

Re your Account Reference 999999 

Sirs,

I am in receipt of your letter of ??/??/?? regarding a debt for which I have no liability at law, namely the 2005 Water Act.

There are a number of points to make:

  • My premises do not have any water or sewerage connection, thus under section 27 of the Act they are not an Eligible Premises.
  • Not having any water or sewerage connection will render it impossible for you to make any disconnection.
  • I have never signed a contract between your employer and [name of tenant]
  • Nor have [name of tenant] ever consented to your company being designated as the provider of Water and or Sewerage Services.

Consquently, I can see no need for you to send an Investigating Officer to my premises, and I know of no reason why I should attend him, apart from common courtesy which you have not shown to me.

I look forward to hearing from you with confirmation that there are no charges due.

Yours faithfully, Tenant

Please remember to keep hard copies of all communications whether my email or post. We recommend using both email and hard copy. The best way is to print your email to pdf, and keep a hard of that as well.

Letter of Demand

The threats continue ... they never respond to your polite, precisely worded explanations of the Law etc. Why not ? Simply because they are working from a script prepared by someone else. It is not known who prepares these scripts, but all the licenced providers seem to use the same one.

A note on the use of debt collectors. Debt collectors are effectively licensed by The Credit Services Association (CSA). One of their rules is that collection of disputed debts is not allowed. So when you get a letter from a debt collector, the first thing is is to advise the CSA that the firm is attempting to collect a disputed debt - you MUST of course already have disputed the debt with the licensed provider. This is best done via the CSA web site.

A typical letter is from the Verastar / Clear Business  Water group signed by Lisa Harrinington letter her UDC hat on.

Enquiries of the CSA confirmed that UDC are NOT one of their members. The typical letter reads as follows:

Your name and address

Dated

FINAL LETTER OF DEMAND

Dear Sir

Creditor: Verastar Ltd t/a Clear Business Acc Ref: 999999 Case No: 999999

You have failed to pay the sum of £000.00, which you owe in respect of your contract with Clear Business. You have also failed to respond properly to our previous correspondence.

We have already advised you what could happen if we have to take legal action against you to recover the debt. If Court proceedings are issued then, in addition to the overdue balance, we will ask the Court to also order that you pay our Court costs and legal fees such that your liability will be much higher. In addition, upon obtaining a County Court Judgment (“CCJ”) against you for the outstanding debt, the CCJ will be registered on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.

A CCJ is also likely to seriously affect your credit rating as a poor credit rating may mean your applications for finance, such as mortgages or mobile phone contracts, are rejected or you are charged a higher interest rate.

It is therefore in your interest to settle the balance as soon as possible and before any further legal action is taken.

To resolve this matter before court action, please urgently contact the Universal Debt Collection team on 0161 946 4992 to make a payment. If you are unable to pay now, then please contact this office urgently to discuss possible repayment options.

There are lots of ways that you can pay:

  • By Credit or Debit Card - call our payment office on 0161 946 4992
  • BACS payments can be made to Lloyds Bank, Account Number: 00119317, Sort Code: 30-95-42
  • By Cheque - made payable to Verastar Ltd and sent to Universal Debt Collection, Longley House, Longley
    Lane, Manchester, M22 4SY quoting your account number on the back.

At this stage all our rights are reserved.

Yours sincerely,
Lisa Harrison, Head of Universal Debt Collection

We recommend a firm reply which might be as follows.

Reply to address as per the letter

For the kind attention of Lisa Harrison, Head  of Credit Control.

Re your Account Reference 999999

Sirs,

I refer to your letter dated xx/xx/xx.

Please be advised that the premises from which [Tenant] trades has neither a water supply nor a sewerage connection and thus under Section 27 of the 2005 Water Act is not an Eligible Premises.

It has previously requested that you provide the reasons at law that renders these premises liable for charges.

Recently Sheriff Reid pronounced that such premises are not liable for charges. His judgement is dated 22nd August 2107.

I look forward to your immediate response confirming that there are no charges due.

Yours Faithfully, [Tenant]

Threat of Court Action

Of course your letter / email will not even be acknowledged, and the next level of threat arrives. Unsurprisingly it now has an additional reference indicating that the claim has been registered at a Sheriff Court, which of course it hasn't.

Again this example is one which has Lisa Harrson's name and signature on UDC headed paper. It reads as follows:

Your name and address

Dated xx/xx/xx

NOTICE OF INTENDED SHERIFF COURT PROCEEDINGS 

Dear Sir

In view of your repeated failure to pay the outstanding debt due to Verastar Ltd t/a Clear Business please find enclosed a draft Simple Procedure Claim Form that has been prepared in respect of the outstanding amount on your account plus interest and Court Expenses.

The draft Simple Procedure Claim Form sets out the details of Clear Business's claim against you. Please note that if Decree is granted (ie an order for payment is obtained against you) we may instruct service of a bank arrestment If payment is not made within 14 days of service of a Charge for Payment following Decree (Judgement) being granted, we may serve an earnings arrestment to reclaim the balance owed.

In the absence of immediate payment, we will issue the enclosed Court proceedings against you. As we have already previously advised you, this will significantly increase your overall liability to us in light of the Court costs and legal fees that we will seek from you.

To avoid this matter going any further, you need to contact us to make payment as soon as possible. You can make payment in a number of ways:

  • Call us on 0161 946 4740 to make a payment over the telephone by credit or debit card;
  • Arrange a BACS payment, or arrange payment directly into our bank account (Account number 00119317 sort code 30-05-42) ensuring that you quote your customer reference as the payment
    reference;
  • Send us a cheque to: Universal Debt Collection, Universal House, Longley Lane, Manchester M22 4SY.

To discuss a payment plan, please call our Universal Debt Collection team on 0161946 4740.

Yours sincerely,
Lisa Harrison, Head of Universal Debt Collection

Check out the attachment. Is it the latest version ? You can find this out by looking at the relevant Scottish Courts web page.  It is strongly suggested that you read all of this. It may seem daunting, but it is definitely easier to read and understand than for example PAYE rules and software. Also never hesitate to ring the court office - if they make ligfe easy for you, then less time is wasted in court.

We suggest a formal type of response as follows, and that it be sent by a form of post that requires the recipient to sign for:

Sirs

Reference is made to your letter dated xx/xx/xx, reference 999999 sent on behalf of Verastar who are trading as Clear Business.

Again to the invoices from that company are formally disputed as follows:

  • Receipt of invoices is acknowledged,
  • The invoices are disputed because:
    • There is no contract, as the premises being traded out of are not Eligible Premises under section 27 of the 2005 Act.
    • In a recent case in a similar situation to mine, Sheriff Reid pronounced on 22nd August 2017 that no charges were payable. 

Many attempts have been made to communicate with Verastar, but these have all failed because they have continually refused to describe the applicable Law.

Please advise the contact details of your solicitor and the court in which you propose to raise the action, which it is intended to defend.

Yours faithfully

Again do not forget to keep a hard copy - you may need to send it to the court.

You may wish to review some of the correspondence which has already taken place with various other interested parties.