October 26, 2023 at 9:27 am #1943
Dear Fellow Members of the ISVA,
For the first time in my professional career of over 35 years I have had a complaint that a level 3 report I produced was not up to the clients’ expectations. I have carried out thousands of this kind of report and always had positive feedback, that my reports are informative and readable so this albeit, isolated criticism, comes hard.
However the point of this commentary is to pass on my experience so far with Stripe and American Express. Stripe allow clients to pay my fees by credit-card and the payment turnaround has now come down to a couple of days which is good.
The client that made the complaint paid by American Express and as soon as they received his complaint they have taken the fee payment back with the co-operation of Stripe.
My point is therefore that I seem to be treated as guilty before my case has been heard, although I am sure that the thousands of pages of conditions produced by Stripe & American Express make this a perfectly legitimate action in their world.
The means of defending and presenting my case was restricted to an on-line form which frankly I found difficult to deal with although I am quite confident usually in dealing with computer issues.
I therefore paid my computer support consultant to guide me through it and his comment was “they don’t really want you to present a defence do they”.
There was evidence to support my case that I could not present because of the restrictive file capacity of the on-line form. This would have been in the form of an email trail, to refute the complainants’ claim that I had been rude & dismissive in my emails.
I also have serious concerns of how my professional service is to be judged. Who at American Express knows anything about the Red Book or the strong standards and ethics we all try to comply with. What will they compare my report with?
The selling agent also contacted me asking whether it was permissible for the complainant to sell my report to a 3rd party. I am still unsure regarding copy write and would be interested whether there is a standard response to this type of enquiry. I did say to the agent that if my report was sold, that I had no legal liability to that 3rd party as there is no privity of contract.
I sent the complainant my Complaints Procedure but so far he has chosen not to follow this route.
Interested to know the members experiences in similar circumstances.
David w Evans FISVA. FRICS.October 30, 2023 at 9:06 am #1944Frank Hill FISVAParticipant
This seems to be normal now with the card provider. The customer rather than tge provider is always right. Seems to me the client read the report and decided not to proceed. This was the way to get the money back. Interesting that they want to sell on the report if it wasn’t good. I think this is typical of the way clients try to get rhe money back. It is very common with Amazon. The fact they don’t want to use your complaints process underpins this Having had problems with Amazon and PayPal I think it will be difficult to win. SORRY.October 30, 2023 at 9:14 am #1945Bruce Forrester FISVAParticipant
How very unfortunate David.
This is one of the reasons we do not accept payment in this manner. Another is the additional cost. I admit we no longer carry out pre-purchase inspections but when we did my view was that if the potential client could not afford the service out of ready cash reserves, given the deposit needed, the stamp duty and legal fees etc., let alone any additional specialist reports recommended/required, then did we wish to accept them as a client? We took a no view.
With regard to the bare faced cheek of enquiring if they can sell it on, I know my response would not be positive. I imagine in your terms and caveats there is prohibition to disclosure and the like and so you are within your rights to withhold.
I suppose on a without prejudice and liability basis you could contact ‘the client’ and suggest you could offer that permission if they withdraw the credit card stop and honour the payment due.
Bruce ForresterOctober 30, 2023 at 9:38 am #1946Richard Hocking FISVAParticipant
Hi David. You have my sympathies having also been in practice for 35 years doing similar reports. If they have had their money back and did not proceed with the purchase, there is no loss to them and therefore no reason to continue to complain. If they are trying to sell the report on, then they are simply trying to profit out of their position and clearly had no intentions of buying the property, possibly irrelevant of your report. You have probably had a lucky escape, even though your report was no doubt thorough, in terms of any ongoing claim against you.
With regard to copyright, we state in our reports that copyright remains with ourselves. We are aware that, irrelevant of this, sometimes reports get passed on, whether for a fee or not, but we always advise both clients and estate agents if they ask that copyright remains with us and they cannot sell the report on. Indeed, if I am asked to look at the same property by a new client perhaps only two weeks later, I always make a point of undertaking a completely new inspection and never re-jig my initial report, assuming no conflict.
We don’t take card payments, so the scenario that you describe would never occur as far as my practice is concerned. Unfortunately it is the way the world has gone, which is certainly not the right direction. I have found, even though we have specialised in Level 3 reports for many years, that it is no longer possible to obtain realistic fees given the amount of work involved and the detail that we all go into in trying to produce the best report possible for our clients. To this end I am looking to cease undertaking survey reports and concentrate on valuations such as Probate, Capital Gains, Inheritance Tax etc., together with some Expert Witness work. This is far less litigious and should also result in my PI premium reducing, making for cheaper runoff when I ultimately stop. I am aware of other surveyors who have already stopped trading in part because of the fee/liability scenarios, which is a great shame, particularly as I used to enjoy undertaking Level 3 reports and there seems to be little appetite from those coming into the profession to take up this role.
Richard Hocking FRICS, F Land Inst., RICS Registered ValuerOctober 30, 2023 at 9:59 am #1947
Many thanks for your feedback I think I will cease taking credit card payments forthwith, although I think this client is a bit of a one off and has upset the selling agents over access and other matters. Thank goodness he did not buy at least I will not have that liability hanging over me!!October 30, 2023 at 10:31 am #1948Trevor Brown FSVAParticipant
The moral of this story appears to be:-
1) Only accept payment by bank transfer (BACS) prior to any inspection. (We have had no problems with this).
2) Make sure all reports have copyright clauses.
3) Don’t offer Level 3 surveys. Some clients expect too much of a ‘top level’ report. Home Survey Reports are perfectly suitable for the vast majority of residential properties. I cannot remember losing a client by not offering a Level 3.
David you have my sympathies. Some clients are intrinsically difficult – fortunately they did not proceed to purchase!
Trevor Brown FRICSOctober 30, 2023 at 10:48 am #1949Alan Bailey FISVAParticipant
Bad luck, sounds like you have been stitched up. I was warned some years ago not to accept credit cards due to the risk of this. It sounds like the client is not proceeding so at least you won’t have future liabilities to him. I would guess there is nothing to stop you pursuing him for the fee in the normal debt collecting manner? If he sells your report then he is making a profit on the whole business!October 30, 2023 at 11:27 am #1950Leslie J Long FISVAParticipant
I sympathise, but two points –
If the report was actually defective in any respect, recalling the payments may be legitimate – BUT –
If the client then attempts to re-sell that report to a third party, it has to be evidence of fraud.
Why not point that out to Stripe/ Amex?October 31, 2023 at 12:12 am #1951Alan R Young MISVAParticipant
Sounds like a very unpleasant experience but thank you for sharing this information as it serves to warn others of this practice. I doubt this is the first time they have stung people.
What a cheek: having effectively not paid the agreed fee they surely have no right to the report and its contents. Yet they are prepared sell it on to others for a profit, even though they claim it is deficient. Very suspect and probably pre-meditated.
Maybe copyright/confidentiality clauses should start with “Subject to payment of the agreed fee,” as this would make clear that the report may not be used or relied upon unless and until payment is secured.
It is tempting to further contest their claim but, given the circumstances as explained, I suspect that this would be drawn out and ultimately difficult/costly to resolve.November 2, 2023 at 12:55 pm #1956Ian Vicary FISVAParticipant
I sincerely thank you for sharing this astounding story. It proves this forum is a valuable source of information regarding the pracaticalties of running a surveying prcactice.
In additon, thank you for all the replies from members comprising messages of support.
I for one will certainly stop accepting credit card payments for professional servcies.
Hon Sec ISVA
November 2, 2023 at 3:48 pm #1958
- This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Ian Vicary FISVA.
I find the forum really helpful and will support it as much as I can and thanks to the combined wisdom of the members I feel we can all benefit from our incredible breadth of knowledge and experience. I know this sounds a bit trite but its true!!November 21, 2023 at 8:14 am #1966Ken Batty MISVAParticipant
I read with interest your post.
Sorry you have experienced this problem but albeit not the speediest way to do things, we always avoid in any type of situation where we wish to complain about a bank or credit card etc (not directly related to your situation) and the best thing is to write to the CEO of the company be recorded delivery post/signed for and we find we get results every time from that. CEO’s do not like complaints going into them directly.
I hope that this is helpful and the online forms are there to trap and you are quite right, they do not really give you the right to complain but obviously that is the intention.
K Batty, FRICS
Ken Batty Charted SurveyorsJanuary 11, 2024 at 4:20 pm #1994
Just an update regarding this case where American Express snatched back my fee pending review by person or persons unknown!
After nearly 4 months they have found in my favour and I have received a full payment of the fee.
I did my best to refute the totally unreasonable criticism levelled by the client who ,as I mentioned , had tried to sell my report to the Estate Agent which I think was his undoing.
However satisfactory the result, the process is completely opaque and I now await the clients next move with baited breath!!
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