Almost exactly a year on from winning his first claim over the loss of 21 postcards, Bruce Goulborn, a dealer in coins, banknotes and postcards who conducts many transactions by mail order, had to resort to the courts again to fight for the compensation that he argued he was entitled to.
At the heart of both disputes was the interpretation of the words ‘market value’ – what Royal Mail promise to cover for losses under their ‘Special Delivery Next Day’ or ‘Special Delivery 9.00am’ services.
Last year the judge at Rhyl County Court sided with Mr Goulborn that ‘market value’ meant ‘saleable value’ – what his clients had either paid or agreed to pay for the lost items – not Royal Mail’s definition of what he had paid for the items himself.
This time around, his claim was for damaged goods – banknotes that were chewed by Mr Goulborn’s spaniel when they were delivered by a postman whilst he was out, after a neighbour signed for the parcel.
Bizarrely, he explained, this meant that in court Royal Mail were arguing that they should pay him more than he was actually claiming.
“I wanted the difference between the market value of the goods as they would have been undamaged and what they were now worth damaged,” he explained to ATG. “That was about £450. Yet Royal Mail wanted to pay me what they cost me, which would have been more.”
Again the judge agreed with Mr Goulborn and awarded him compensation and costs. “Mr Goulborn is experienced in this field and has proved himself a credible and honest witness,” said the judge, echoing a statement made by the judge in last year’s case.
Mr Goulborn was also surprised to be told by counsel for Royal Mail that he could not “adequately prove” how much he had paid for the notes. They even demanded to have sight of his bank statements.
However, he produced a handwritten invoice showing that the customer to whom he had mailed the banknotes had paid £800, which Mr Goulborn later refunded in light of the subsequent damage that happened as a result of Royal Mail’s actions. But Royal Mail queried even this, he explained, as the invoice had been handwritten and not computer-generated.
Royal Mail issued a statement saying that they would be considering the judgment and responding accordingly. Yet they also said that their position remained unchanged and that compensation for lost items was based on “actual loss” – in their view what a claimant had paid, not what they had sold items for.
As both cases were heard in the county court, they did not set a legal precedent, allowing Royal Mail to fight claims on a case-by-case basis.
If Royal Mail appealed against the judgment to a higher court, or a claim was made in a higher court, a ruling might set a precedent and force Royal Mail to recognise market value as “saleable value”. In the meantime, they are likely to continue racking up bills for court costs and compensation.
ATG have heard from a number of other dealers with similar complaints to Mr Goulborn’s.
For his part, Mr Goulborn is now offering to help others with similar complaints. He is already advising a coin dealer from Ipswich and is happy for anyone else with a potential complaint to contact him at the Rhyl Coin and Stamp Centre, 4 Sussex Street, Rhyl LL18 1SG.
Tel: 01745 338112.
By Ivan Macquisten