Last month, Sixfold was taken to court in Warrington by a vexatious and opportunist claim, lodged by Simply Mail Solutions (SMS) trading as Internet for Everything Ltd. Colin Smith, a Director of SMS, decided that, even though SMS had not (and could not have) provided the Office 365 internet services it had promised Sixfold, Sixfold should pay for the services for a year anyway.
No doubt, he thought that as Sixfold was based a long way away in Canterbury, bullying tactics would help generate income. We think he was relying on the cost of the claim (worth circa £400) being outweighed by the prospective ordeal for the Sixfold team in preparing for and then defending the case. He might have thought that this would all cost Sixfold much more than £400, so we would just make a business based decision, cave in and pay. He was wrong!
It all began with a surprise when, before Christmas 2015 and with no warning, a small claims court summons arrived in the Sixfold office. This was more than a year after Sixfold had changed hosting providers because of the issues with SMS at that time. After 376 days we all thought the issues with SMS were long over and we had heard nothing from them. There were no other unpaid bills and none of the many emails Sixfold had sent to SMS had ever been answered.
However, despite many Sixfold attempts to sort out the issues amicably, including directly emailing the SMS Chairman Bill Unsworth, SMS never sought to resolve the problems. They refused to speak on the phone and did not reply to emails at the time or when we, once again, sought to resolve the issue following receipt of the court documents. Apparently, they also refused to get their sales team to talk to their technical experts, who were adamant the salesman had sold a non-implementable service. Eventually, Internet for Everything forced the court hearing to take place.
As we predicted, the case against Sixfold was promptly dismissed for lack of substance. Talking to people around the court, it appeared that the tactic of unreasonably demanding money from its customers and claiming non-existent orders were in place, may have been tried before by this company. So our advice:
- Don’t enter into any contract or arrangement with SMS or Internet for Everything Ltd. There are more trustworthy firms out there.
- If SMS or the Internet for Everything issues small claims court proceedings against you, take the case to court and don’t settle beforehand (unless you have clearly done something wrong). Don’t let them bully you into paying anything by starting a small claim process.
The irony of this entire tale is that Sixfold had been getting a service from SMS for years and had been perfectly happy with it. So much so that when things went wrong, we just asked to revert to the previous service. Then there would have been no upset and SMS would have retained a happy customer.
When SMS threatened to close Sixfold’s entire email service down as leverage, Sixfold made a hasty transfer to another provider and paid all its outstanding bills (bar the one!). Now SMS has lost its court fees and paid Sixfold’s expenses. Plus, we expect they will lose prospective customers when they read this or listen to the Sixfold story. Was the reputational damage worth £400 to them? I wonder what Microsoft thinks?