When Chris Andrews got a cold call from a rating specialist at Bolton-based Morgan Whittackers, she explained that she was hard of hearing. The company therefore sent her the paperwork outlining their offer to appeal her business rates along with a survey sheet that they asked her to fill in. Following this, she sent the paperwork to me, because she had decided against accepting the offer.
The covering letter says in bold type and capital letters: "Please remember that our fee is only payable if we receive an acknowledgement from the appropriate authority. If, however, it is not acknowledged then no fee will be payable."
The aforementioned fee was £300.
Chris' store - which is called Chris' - trades in Cardiff, so I rang Cardiff Council and spoke to the business rates man there.
He confirmed that all appeals are acknowledged so, for the price of a postage stamp rather than £300, Chris could have her appeal acknowledged directly. "Any business can appeal - it's not difficult to do," he told me. "It's just a two-sided sheet. It would go through to the valuation office and the person would get an acknowledgment."
He suggested that, although large companies might want to use a specialist, sole traders would be £300 better off by taking the DIY approach.