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Can a company harass its customers?

The administrative court has recently answered the question as to whether or not a company can harass its customers or, indeed, anyone else.

In these days of corporate unpopularity, not least directed against the banking sector, you could be forgiven for thinking that, ever since the demise of Lehman Brothers in 2008, we have all been harassed by the banks. Against this background of corporate greed and envy, the Honourable Mr. Justice Silber has decided (rightly it turns out) that the Bank of Scotland was capable of committing the offence of harassment and that, in this particular instance, Mr. Kosar was entitled to bring a private prosecution against the bank. Interestingly, the report does not tell us about the background facts but one fears that the Bank of Scotland may have sent the (alleged) victim one too many annoying computer generated letters, possibly asking him to pay his credit card bill.

It is unfortunate that the report in Kosar v Bank of Scotland (trading as Halifax) [2011] EWHA 1050 (Admin) doesn't report the facts because, however annoying the bank might have been, it is difficult to imagine just how it managed to harass Mr. Kosar so badly to fall foul of section 2 (1) of the Harassment Act 1997. Having said that, no doubt there are circumstances where an individual can be harassed by a corporate entity and the decision in Kosar establishes that a company can be prosecuted. Interestingly, whilst a company can be guilty of harassment it cannot be the victim of the offence; perhaps a better way of obtaining a bit of hard street justice against annoying financial institutions is to send them copious letters making unwarranted demands? Or we could just pay our credit card bills on time and avoid them all together!

Adam Swirsky / 1st Jun 2011


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