Timeshare Company wins Libel Damages

Awarded £175,000 general and special damages

A company which specialises in assisting people to exit timeshare contracts was awarded damages and an injunction for libel at the Liverpool Civil Justice Centre on Monday.

TESS (Timeshare Exit and Support Services) Limited (‘TESS’) sued  (Timeshare Association and Committees) Limited (‘TATOC’) when it was included on a list kept by TATOC on its website of ‘cold-calling’ companies which TATOC said should be avoided.

TESS argued that its inclusion on the list alongside other material on the TATOC website meant that it would be understood to be a scam company engaged in fraudulent activities.

The list was widely published on the website, which was believed by readers to be reputable; was online for a period of about a year; had been read by almost 4,000 people; had led to a fall-off in business; and had required TESS to take costly measures to mitigate the damage caused.

Two weeks before the trial was due to commence, and after TATOC had been represented by solicitors and Counsel at the PTR, it announced that it was likely to go into administration and appointed a company to attempt a fire-sale of its assets.

On the Friday before the trial, its solicitors served notice that they were no longer instructed.

On Monday 15 May 2017, the first day of the trial, where TATOC did not appear and was not represented, Mr Justice Turner allowed TESS to tender the evidence served on its behalf and found that the words complained of were defamatory and met the test under s1, Defamation Act 2013. The Judge was satisfied that the words complained of were untrue.

On damages, Turner J accepted that special damage had been caused to TESS and awarded the sum of £100,000 and, having regard to the decision in Reachlocal UK Limited v Bennett [2014] EWHC 3405 (QB); the seriousness of the allegation; the extent of publication on a reputable website; and the evidence of a general fall-off in business, awarded TESS £75,000 in general damages.

The Judge also granted an injunction.

5RB‘s Adam Speker acted for TESS (instructed by Stephen Boyd of Athena Law).