Abbey Rowe has a rather distinct way of operating. First someone rings and tells you the rating system will be changing and offers to send you ‘information’ (if this is ringing bells it is because I last wrote about this in the August 1 and 15 issues, but didn’t name the firm at the time).

Once the paperwork – that you have to sign for – arrives, the covering letter will thank you for appointing them to represent you. In Jay Patel’s case the company suggested it would appeal his 2010-2015 rating, which is bizarre as Jay’s business, The Chocolate Box in Rainham, Kent, is zero rated. Why would he want to rock the boat?

The terms and conditions say that the fee (£399 + Vat) is only payable when Jay gets an acknowledgement from the valuation office. That, by the way, is another way of saying ‘only payable when your appeal is accepted’. All appeals are accepted, there will always be an acknowledgement.

Abbey Rowe’s letter mentioned a cooling-off period of seven days, but the T&Cs also pointed out that this would not apply if you hear from the valuation office before that. I can just picture Abbey Rowe sending out both letters – one to Jay and the other to the valuation office – at the same time.

I now believe that was what happened as Abbey Rowe’s original letter to Jay was dated August 18 and the acknowledgement from the valuation office was August 26. This arrived with a bill for £478.80 (that’s with the Vat added in) from Abbey Rowe with the same date.

Jay had tried to ring the number on the letter and website, but a message said the mailbox was full. He tried another number that I found on the website, but that failed too.

While trawling the net I noticed that the NFRN had posted a warning about Abbey Rowe’s “rates scam” in June.

Jay had also sent a letter to the company in good time to cancel the so-called appointment.

I heard back from Jay just in time. He had contacted his VOA office where the official said: “You have nothing to worry about. You didn’t sign anything”. The officer also said  he was well aware of Abbey Rowe.

Jay did finally get through to the company and was told to “ignore” the bill. Maybe everything crossed in the post.