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Eversheds (Solicitors) Complaint to the Office of Fair Trading

June 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

This complaint has now been circulated to every university and student union in England and Wales.

To: The Office of Fair Trading

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Complaint against Eversheds (Solicitors) LLP

In my opinion Eversheds LLP has abused its dominant market position of having around100 UK universities as clients acts against the interests of students as vulnerable consumers and universities as public bodies.

Introduction

  1. I am a 57 years old with a varied life experience including 16 years experience in social work management and possess two professional qualifications. I am a former student at the University of Wales Lampeter where I attended in 2002 and was subsequently forced to give up my studies because I was victimised for complaining. I have since campaigned for a University Commissioner or Ombudsman.

The Student as a Vulnerable Consumer

  1. When a student attends university, they enter into a contract for their education and therefore they should have the same consumer rights as everyone else.
  2. Students are vulnerable in that a large loan is necessary for tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses etc. If the student is forced to out of the university their future is not only destroyed but are also left with large debts to pay off.
  3. Because of then above situation there is a serious inequality open to abuse of power and exploitation of students, in more ways than one.
  4. The introduction of tuition fees has broken down the social class barriers of university entry; however, the high drop out rate of around 20% suggests that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are being weeded out using other methods of gate keeping.
  5. A working party on students suicide rates concluded that it was average for the general population. What they failed to do which is essential in any health and safety issue is to assess the risk from which they then measure the outcome. Common sense tells us two things about universities, firstly they are a social institution and secondly they provide a purpose in life both of which are indicators of a low risk environment. Therefore, if the suicide rate is about average per head of population it indicates it is too high.
  6. The student complaints scheme set up under the Higher Education Act 2004 is run by a company that is 4/5ths owned by the Universities and operates as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education known as the OIA. This arrangement does not meet the criteria of independence for other regulatory bodies.
  7. It is well known that the major sociological cause of suicide and deviant behaviour in institutions is caused by the breakdown of the rules and regulations by those in authority. What compounds the problem is the realisation that there is no regulation of the conduct of universities towards its students. This creates a situation of total and complete hopelessness for anyone on the receiving end of an injustice.
  8. I have raised these matters with the financial regulator the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales known as HEFCW who despite claims on their website say they have no jurisdiction to intervene. Their subsidiary the Quality Assurance Agency known as the QAA who makes academic assessments on their behalf and has a website that states its mission is to reassure the public on standards in Welsh Higher Education. Has stated it has no locus in these matters and does not allow complaints from the public and God forbid students.
  9. The Welsh Assembly Government also claims that it has no jurisdiction of these matters and its all part of the tradition of these institutions being autonomous. They omitted to mention that they also passed the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004, which bans the taxpaying public from being able to make any complaint concerning financial matters and took away the power of the Auditor General for Wales to intervene.
  10. The Charity Act 2006 will require universities to register and for an appointed regulator to monitor their charitable activities. I have been lobbying the Charity Commission to highlight the fact that nobody regulates on behalf of the student as a consumer. The universities must pass the ‘public benefit tests’ of charitable purpose and in the case of the University of Wales Lampeter I have a mountain of evidence to suggest because of the institutionalised abuse and discrimination against students they are going to fail.

Complaints Procedures and the Student Complaints Scheme under the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

  1. Universities give students every encouragement to use the student complaints scheme, as it is so open to abuse and corruption that it is being used to weed out students who complain. I have hard evidence that ‘statements of completion’ to say that complaints procedures have been fully complained with have been contradicted by senior managers. Serious allegations are concocted and documents are fabricated and destroyed as necessary for the student to stand no chance of redress either by using the complaints scheme or in law.
  2. Complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) take so long the student looses the right to a Judicial Revue.
  3. So many students are cynical of this process that increasing numbers are resorting to law.
  4. However, the chances of winning are so small a student is going to end up with an order for costs against them for which the university will apply for bankruptcy proceedings to or send in the bailiffs reclaim the costs. This after having destroyed his or her life prospects just to make sure nobody else complains, and advised to do so by Eversheds.
  5. There has been a 27% rise in complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education this year.
  6. The findings of the OIA are unenforceable, which means a student can go through a psychological destructive complaints process just to have it ignored.

Eversheds LLP – Abuse of Dominant Market Position against the interests of students as consumers and universities as public bodies.

  1. Eversheds LLP has around 100 UK universities on their books including the University of Wales Lampeter. Various listings on the internet for higher education solicitors state that Eversheds has the higher education market ‘sewn up’. I think ‘stitched up’ would be a better description.
  2. Eversheds were instrumental in setting up the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) for which it provided legal advice. The OIA state there is no conflict of interest on this issue. However, it does not meet the standard of impartiality in other regulatory bodies nor in the mind of Joe Public.
  3. In my opinion the above factors have created a position whereby universities such as the University of Wales Lampeter, can pervert and obstruct complaints procedures with impunity in the knowledge that Eversheds will resort to bully boy tactics the give the complaining student a psychological kicking. Furthermore, they can then pervert the students complaint scheme in the knowledge that the OIA being 4/5ths owned by the universities is not going to rock the boat.
  4. This dominant position has ultimately acted against the interests of the University of Wales Lampeter as a public body as Eversheds have been forced to concede that the University Council has no idea that its officers are placing the university in jeopardy.
  5. I have stated the opinion that the conduct of Eversheds in concealing the corruption of officers and from the University Council has put the University at risk of losing its charitable status under the Charity Act 2006.
  6. This situation is evidence that the dominant market position of Eversheds not only acts against the interests of students as vulnerable consumers but those of the taxpaying public and society as a whole.
  7. For publishing these facts to the internet, I have been threatened with legal action and a high court injunction by Eversheds on behalf of the University of Wales Lampeter. Such threats were without foundation and simply made to conceal the conduct of officers and staff.
  8. Eversheds have recently made further threats and resorted to personal abuse to prevent the University Council from being named on my website, which is the only way they can find out what is going on. In my opinion, Eversheds have done this to conceal their own conduct from being made public which has placed their client at risk of losing charitable status. They are desperate to maintain their dominant market position and prevent their other 100 clients from finding alternative legal representation.

Addendum

I wish to add the following points for your consideration of this matter under this aspect of the OFT’s powers.

The Office of Fair Trading can also investigate markets that do not appear to be working well for consumers

  1. Universities are a highly competitive market that depends on reputation, which is preserved by the concealment and repression of any wrongdoing. Students and the public are banned from complaining to what regulation exists which acts in the interests of academia and not students.
  2. Students are consumers and my local Trading Standards Office has confirmed they have consumer rights on theses issues and they have suggested avenues of complaint. However, the system for complaints regarding breach of contract etc do not work they are just ignored.
  3. This is because of the dominant market position of Eversheds advising both the universities and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education known as the OIA which is 4/5ths owned by the universities.
  4. It explains why the student complaints scheme, which includes consumer issues, is unenforceable and any findings are kept confidential.
  5. When established the Head of the OIA Dame Judith Deech said in was in growing response to consumerism. You must be aware that public knowledge brings about changes in the law to protect consumers and without that knowledge nothing changes.
  6. The dominant market position of Eversheds has acted to threaten students as consumers in order to protect their clients’ reputation. Such threats include High Court claims for defamation and injunctions contrary to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act and include a requirement to sign a written undertaking not to tell the truth again.
  7. This is not a personal issue, this is happening to students in growing numbers. I cannot resolve my personal complaint against the University of Wales Lampeter for the above reasons.
  8. If a major high street retailer had a similar scam going on to threaten consumers who complain, then you would act. The same applies to students and universities.

As a consumer I do have one avenue left open, under the Higher Education Act 2004 I can complain to the OIA about the Federal University of Wales for failing to implement its procedure under the Public Disclosure Act 1998 which would address the issues I have raised.

However, the Federal University does not have any procedures therefore I cannot use the system set up by Eversheds as I need what is known as a ‘letter of completion’ to state that all procedures have been properly complied with. I cannot get it because procedures do not exist!

I have complained to this effect and have again been threatened with legal action by the Senior Vice Chancellor Professor Anthony Chapman to conceal the gross misconduct of the General Secretary Dr Lynn Williams and his own failure to implement procedures on financial irregularity.

Because of the introduction of the OIA the Visitor HM the Queen no longer has jurisdiction but has written to the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly on the issue of no complaints procedures. She has been ignored because she said nothing new!

If the Queen is ignored, what chance do you think the average student has of having their complaints dealt with fairly?

I must repeat this situation applies to all students in growing numbers and the requirement for this ‘letter of completion’ means universities simply tell lies in the knowledge that Eversheds has the situation stitched up to prevent gross misconduct and corruption of its clients from becoming public knowledge.

I have given an interview to The Lawyer Magazine who are going to publish the story as they saw it as a public interest issue exactly as I have explained it and not a personal matter, I anticipate others will support my complaint in due course.

To support this complaint to the OFT.

Select text> copy> click on enquiries@oft.gov.ukemail > paste> use the Subject heading Complaint Against Eversheds (Solicitors)> add your name and address> send.

[email_link]

See Lampeter Closure

Tags: Complaint to OFT