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Censorship United Kingdom Your Rights Online

Firm Threatens To Sue Consumer Websites For Harrassment 105

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that RLP, a legal firm that sues shoplifters on behalf of retail groups, has shown its ignorance of the Streisand Effect by attempting to censor The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and other consumer websites. RLP has accused CAB of harassment and is demanding that they and other consumer websites remove all 'defamatory posts' and publications. This is the latest salvo in a long running battle and although organizations like CAG (Consumer Action Group) have removed some offending posts, CAB and the Legal Beagles website are refusing to remove content and have accused RLP of trying to stifle reporting of adverse court judgments against them."
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Firm Threatens To Sue Consumer Websites For Harrassment

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  • by ommerson ( 1485487 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @08:33AM (#40477305)

    The business model of these companies is particularly pernicious, and relies in the main on the defendants being uninformed and under-resourced.

    THe company in question here is actually chasing employees of the Citizens' Advice Bureau - the place where these defendants go for help - often because they can't afford a lawyer.

    This is a similar strategy to that used by ACS:Law - which has already felt the wrath of the professional regulator for precisely this kind of tactic. It's quite likely that, as suggested, that they sent a few threats too far.

  • by RattFink ( 93631 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @08:33AM (#40477309) Journal

    What they want taken down has nothing to do with defamation and everything to do with offering advise to people who have been sent demands by these people.

    Schillings also wrote to BWB, demanding that it take down from its own website its report of the Oxford court case in which it had acted for the two teenage girls.

    And Schillings even demanded that the CAB withdraw all its previous publications on civil recovery, including two reports published in 2009 and 2010 which are available on its website.

    The reports outline how flimsy their evidence can be and offers effective defenses. This is nothing more then a SLAPP action.

  • by realxmp ( 518717 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @08:38AM (#40477353)

    It looks like this is just a bunch of shoplifters who retaliated on-line to being sued.

    This isn't about the shoplifters at all. This is the Citizens Advice Bureaux who are a non-profit legal advice service over here in Britain. They basically provide legal advice to folks about civil law, debt, and similar stuff. Essentially there are open legal questions about whether the actual damages in RLP cases are as big as RLP claim they should be.

  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @08:45AM (#40477405)
    Because RLP is lying to customers by trying to legally suppress judgements, say, where they were found to have exaggerated damages, by claiming reprting those was "defamation".

    That is what is wrong.
  • by ommerson ( 1485487 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @08:57AM (#40477479)

    In fact, a judge has already thrown a case that did go to court out on the grounds that it was unclear why the damages were set at the level claimed or that they were in any way proportionate to actual damage.

    The retailers (usually big supermarkets) are attempting to recover the entire costs of their losses to shoplifting and extra security from those they catch.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @09:02AM (#40477511) Homepage Journal

    Libel laws in the UK are very biased towards the prosecution.

    You haven't studied UK law [1], you haven't been to the UK and you couldn't point to it on a map.

    Stop repeating what you hear other ill-informed idiots say and get some exercise, you fat bastard.

    [1] there's no such thing. Also if you had any legal knowledge you'd be aware that civil cases don't have a "prosecution".

  • by Cyclizine ( 2558090 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @09:32AM (#40477747)

    I don't think "punitive damages" exist outside the USA. (It's a stupid concept: if people need to be punished they should be punished with a fine, paid to the state, after a criminal trial.)

    Correct. No punitive damages under England and Wales or Scots law.

  • by Cyclizine ( 2558090 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @09:50AM (#40477911)

    you fat bastard

    You'll be hearing from my lawyer who specializes in UK libel law.

    There's no such thing as "UK law"; there's different (but similar) systems in England and Wales [wikipedia.org] and Northern Ireland [wikipedia.org] (both common law jurisdictions). Scotland [wikipedia.org] has a mixed civil/common law system and its own institutions and methods [bbc.co.uk].

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @10:52AM (#40478617)

    They don't sue shoplifters.

    Their business model is simple: issue an official looking letter containing a "fine" for about £80. If you don't pay up, you get reminders and final warnings and such.

    Most people pay up.

    However - and I daresay this is where RLP are getting upset - there are two minor problems with this business model:

      - Under UK law, private organisations can't issue fines. That privilege is reserved for government bodies. A court of law can issue a fine, your local council can issue a fine but if I issue you a fine, I can't do a damn thing to force you to pay up.
      - You can't sue someone in order to punish them. If they've caused you to suffer a loss that can somehow be quantified financially, you can sue them to recover the loss, but punitive damages are more-or-less non-existent. If the amount you're suing someone for is in no way related to the amount of financial loss they actually caused, then there's a very good chance it'll be declared a fine and thrown out of court. RLP would need to demonstrate that their "fine" is a genuine estimate of the costs associated with the incident, and as these letters more often than not include the word "Penalty" or "Fine", they've given themselves an uphill struggle before they've even set foot in a courtroom.

    NOTE: IANAL. If you are being sued and you take advice from some anonymous Internet source, you need help.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @10:56AM (#40478669)

    This isn't the court system fining people, this is a private organisation issuing rude letters.

    Private organisations don't have the ability to fine people under UK law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2012 @11:26AM (#40478951)

    "Just like the woman who sued McDonalds for $16 million and won for a spilled cup of hot coffee."

    I am SO TIRED of hearing about this, especially when it's from people who have NO IDEA what really happened. Your statement is the ultimate in ignorance. For your edification - the coffee was excessively hot, and McDonalds had been repeatedly warned about it, a warning they chose to ignore. The coffee was so hot, it melted the cup in her hands, and therefore onto her lap, and she ended up with some serious burns in a spot where I'm thinking most folks would not want to have burns.

    So, yes, McDonalds were made to pay, just as they needed to be. And recently, I've bought coffee at McDonalds and had to wait 20 to 30 minutes before I could even begin to drink it, it's been so hot. Seems they have learned nothing.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.