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This is my first question on the Law Stack Exchange so hopefully this is the right place for it. To play out the scenario this is what's happened..

I used to work for a company that need the odd job doing here and there and I agreed when I left that I would still help out where I can.

They contact me every now and again with some jobs, I tell them a quote and they pass this into the client and i get some work to do.

This one situation, a year ago I got told a very brief overview of what needs doing, I did exactly what needed doing. Now a year on, I have got a message saying that it doesnt work as he expected and he actually needs something else adding to it, which wasn't in the initial brief.

The job itself was when someone views a web page, it emails the person who owns that page to let them know that the page was viewed. I did it exactly as described.

Now he is saying that it's sending too many emails being sent per day and I need to limit it, however a limit was never specified previously nor was it ever mentioned in the exchange when discussing the job. Also as I am a professional to get this to work as requested I would have to store some kind of unique identifier and there is no GDPR in place for this site.

This is another couple of hours work for me, so I told him that I cannot do it for free as it's an additional requirement and it would take a good few hours to complete.

His response to that, a year on is he paid me for a job which was signed off. I know this because he refused to pay me before. If I don't do the additional requirements for free then I need to give the money back, or I should be expecting some letters.

Unfortunately, as this was an old boss I didn't ever foresee this happening so we never actually had a contract in place and I've since had a new phone so all of the communication has been removed.

I'm just wondering where I stand with this and do i have to pay him back or do the work for free or do I have a strong case if things do get serious?

  • I don't understand the part "he signed off as he refused to pay me". Given that he did not pay you, what do you mean by "sign off"? did he desist from assigning to you that previous job? did he actually pay you or was that just what he alleged in his response? Although you don't specify what type of job you did for that person, this answer might be of your interest. If it is not, please edit your question to reflect what is materially different here. – Iñaki Viggers Jan 25 at 9:08
  • Hi, I have since updating my question. Thank you in advance. – ktoim Jan 25 at 9:39
  • You indicate that an e-mail limit was never discussed during the project, however, was it reasonable for you as a professional to infer that such a discussion should have occurred? Would the client have the necessary knowledge to recognize that they could potentially be receiving hundreds or thousands of e-mails? When you are hired as a professional, you often have a duty to make your client aware of things that are reasonably foreseeable by you; at that time you can advise the client on a means to proceed. – Pyrotechnical Jan 29 at 14:28
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do i have to pay him back or do the work for free or do I have a strong case if things do get serious?

If the client is able to produce the terms upon which you two agreed, one would need to know their contents. That would help for assessing the scope of the specs, expiration of warranty, whether/how the doctrine of contra proferentem is applicable, and thus whose position is consistent with those terms.

If the neither party is able to produce the terms of the contract, then it appears that you should prevail in a court dispute. That is because receiving an email every time a web page gets visited is not something that would take one year for a reasonable client to notice.

Instead, the client's delay of one year to report or notice such an obvious matter suggests that he belatedly changed his mind and now he is trying to blame on you his mistaken specs. Belated changes of mind are not cognizable under contract law unless all the parties to that contract agree to modify the contract.

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How much money were you paid to do said work? Probably not a lot as this seems pretty simple work. This would make it cost prohibitive for a company to take you to anything other than a small claims court. Additionally, since there was no contract in place, it becomes impossible to prove that you failed to meet said contract. In your favor is that you were paid for the work. You can expect nothing more than a bit of nagging from this situation.

This is a troublesome client and you protect yourself by raising prices on troublesome clients.

If I was you, this is how I would handle it. Come up with a price to fix this issue, lets call that X. Quote the price of 2 * X to the new boss with half to be paid up front. Any additional nagging/complaints about the past work will raise the price by 10%. So if you get 5 letters the price is now (2 * X) * 1.50.

This way if you don't get the second payment you are happy with the money received for the work, and they will no longer bother you as they still owe you money.

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The client accepted the work, as it was done, a year ago, and they paid for it in full. If they had come back a month later then maybe they would have a point (but only if there was a hidden fault; what your software is supposedly doing wrong is so obvious it should have been found out the next day). So there is no way they would get money back if this went to court.

I assume you are doing this as self employed and not as a company. So contract laws wouldn't see you as a company where the responsibilities for you would be higher. And it seems there is no signed contract either which will make it hard for the company to get any money back.

Last, it's easy to demand money from you, but also easy for you to say "no". If you make these changes for them, for pay, I'd say you should have a contract that says that you will do the work, at a specified hourly rate, written and signed by both sides. They need the work, so you are in a better negotiation position. And with their shenanigans it's obvious that you need to protect yourself.

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Fix your mistake

s13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act implies into every contract a warranty that ...

… the supplier will carry out the service with reasonable care and skill.

A program that sends an email every time a web page is accessed is self+evidently not scalable, not even a little bit. As a reasonable contractor you should have known this and explained to your client why it was a bad idea. You didn’t, you screwed up, fix it now.

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    Completely disagree with this - the client got what they asked for, now they are varying the requirements, which means additional work. The fact that its been a year since the original work and this new requirement is significant as well. This is not a mistake, this is working to requirements issued by the client - whether the requirements are reasonable or not is highly dependent on the circumstances, as this could very easily be a very very low visit rate page, or the emails could be handled by an automated import process on the receiving end. The client should pay here. – Moo Jan 28 at 23:20

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