How to get collection from unreasonable clients?

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asked on Nov 20, 2007 at 01:52
I am an freelance interior designer with a registered company. I have a client introduced by my brother. In the 1st meeting, me and my brother went to the client house to measure the house so that I can plan and design accurately. I told him the design and drawings will takes 7 days and I will call him for the next meeting. Then, the 2nd meeting, I submitted my design and drawings to him so that he can consider and imagine his house with his family. On that day, after I had presented my ideas and advice to him, I ask him to acknowledge the drawings and design given to him. He likes my design and ask me for the quotation fast. After giving him my quotation, he was not happy with the price and ask me to knock down the cost and I did twice and faxed to him. Another week, when I ask for him whether he confirm the job, he says our price not favourable to him and I just tell him to get another contractor to do for him BUT I will charge him the interior design fees to him. He ask me to fax the bill to him and ask me to give him a discount. I was not agree with him and wait for his reply. After another week, I ask him to collect my fees, he said I was unfair to charge him the fees and will discuss with his wife.

I think this client is running away and expects FREE consultation. Moreover, his wife also a lawyer.  And before its happens, he told me that he takes my plan and lets other contractors for a quote. In the interior design industry, I have many, many experiences with these people and intend to run away with our valued drawings and NO return.

What shall I do?
Are we protected by the Malaysian Law?
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5 Answers

answered on Nov 20, 2007 at 15:35
You bet you can claim from this client. This is based on quantum merit basis. It means the client need to pay you for the services rendered in this case you design. Sue him in court for the service rendered. From another point of view, should he proceed with the interior design prepared by you by using another contractor, you can apply for an injunction to stop him to do so since he will be infringing your copyright. Things would be different if he pays for your design. There, he will be the owner of the design and he will be free to use another contractor. Law is the law regardless whether your his wife or son a lawyer.

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answered on Nov 20, 2007 at 16:45
The fact that he asked you to fax the bill can be construed as acceptance by conduct, eventhough it seems he did not expressly state that he will make the payment.

True enough in law you will have a case, but in real practical life to sue, should be the last resort because engaging a lawyer will ultimately accrue additional legal costs to you. and there is no 100% guarantee that you will win. If you lose, then you have to pay cost for the defence counsel too.

Apart from contract, you can also pursue under Intellectual Property law, assuming that your designs are copyright.

Under Commercial law too, eventhough your client has possession of the drawings, the legal title still remains with you, until payment is made. As such, should he utilise your drawings by passing it on to other contractors, he is passing on property without a good title (tort of conversion). In law, you have the right to get it back, unless you consented to it.

As stated above, you will have a remedy should you seek legal action, but its best to calculate the costs involved and the hassle of bringing claims to court.

You mentioned that his wife is a lawyer? Then you should lodge a report to the Bar Council or the Law Society with regards to this matter, because being a spouse, the law deems that the lawyer wife has imputed notice of the situation.

Trust lawyer would want to see a letter from the LAw Society or the Bar Council asking them to come down to give an explanation.
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answered on Nov 23, 2007 at 22:29
Thank you for your advise. Would you let me know the Law Society contact numbers? I would like to find out more.

I had called him twice this week but he told me that his wife said NO. He is trying to threaten me that his wife is a Lawyer. However, I had consult from my lawyer.  My lawyer told me, if agreements is orally between me and my client, everything will be change when I insist to bring up to court. Moreover, the piece of acknowledgement and my bill does not help. My case is weak, I shall lose in the court and he can explain that I volunteered to do for him. Although he ask me to fax the bill to him, but I was too late I didn't send him another official letter by AR registered post!. I was regretted and I did not know about it.

It's all my brother fault! He did not aware that his friends do this to me. I know business is business but my brother wouldn't tell his friend about the terms and conditions because he scares that they don't give business to him.

And also, he just ask me to appear when he needs me to measure his friends house. I already wasted my time and my effort being taken advantage from his so-call friend!.

Thank you again. I hope to hear more good advise from the public and professional lawyers.
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answered on Jan 22, 2008 at 23:19
In brief, you portrait this as a case of a potential client using your own design without payment for execution by another party.

Some issues may be raised:
1.  Is there any agreement that this is a paid job?
2.  Has the "customer" failed to pay for it?
3.  Have you claim copyrights?
4.  Has the "customer" infringed on your copyrights?
5.  What action has you got with the "customer's" lawyer wife?

In a court of law, the burden of proof is on you since you are making the claim.  The cost of pursuing for justice may exceed the claiming sum.  There is no knowing how the Defendant would defend your charge.
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answered on Aug 17, 2012 at 10:59
if there is any form of dispute, there are a few options to pursue the case. you could either approach a lawyer, fight the case out in the courts knowing that there are chances it will be heard in maybe 3 years. Again, knowing that, when the verdict comes around, you might or might not get what you want. There is another approach... talk and negotiate. For all you know it might be that simple. This is what MEDIATION is about. Maybe you think it is difficult for you to do it on your own. Well you don't have to. A mediator is a third party who is neutral and acts as a facilitator. I have used one along the way and they are based in Kl but do call them to see if Mediation can help you. His number is 03-22890775. You might also want to try 014-6417833. No harm asking him some questions on the mediation process. It is an impartial one, all discussions are private and it really is the party that decides on the really, you have the controls. the settlement agreement at the end of the day is prepared by the mediator and it is a binding contract . Plus the fees are really low compared to legal proceedings plus it is made known before mediation begins. Most importantly is that both party wins !
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