In my previous article, “In defence of the contrapreneurs”, I looked at the dangers of the contrapreneur exposé videos. I highlighted the fact that some of the business celebrities trying to bring these contrapreneurs to justice were distributing just as much false and misleading information as the contrapreneurs themselves.
I have another issue with them too.
Many of the exposé videos I have seen are so focused on their moral quest that they fail to answer two very important questions:
- Are these contrapreneurs actually breaking the law? And
- If they are, what can you do about it?
Unfortunately, I can’t give a definitive answer here as we would need to look at the specific circumstances of each case.
However, what I can do is break down the process we would go through to find out. Then, if you think you’ve lost money to one of these contrapreneurs, you will have a better idea of whether or not you can claim a refund and take legal action against them if you need to.
As an example, let’s say that someone went to a contrapreneur’s live event and whilst they were there, they were persuaded to sign up to a training programme at a cost of approximately £2000.
Putting aside the fact that they may regret this decision when they get home and want a refund, have they actually been “conned”? I.e., have they been deceived or mislead into buying a product or service that’s never going to work?
To find out, there are three areas to examine. These are:
- the techniques used to persuade someone to sign up;
- the contract they entered into; and
- the contents of the course they purchased.
I’ve been to a few business and personal development seminars so I’ve seen first-hand the sales techniques used. They can be very persuasive if you’re not aware of what is happening.
If you’re sat in the audience, it’s completely reasonable for you to believe what you are being told so there are laws, such as the Advertising Standards Authority’s CAP code, that says all advertising must be legal, honest, decent and truthful.
Some of the on-stage sales pitches I have seen have a blatant disregard for the CAP code.
In particular, they make wild claims about how easy it is to make money and also misrepresent the price of the training they are selling. They make it sound like their courses are real bargains and that they’re heavily discounted when in actual fact you are more than likely paying full price for them.
This is a point I discussed in more detail in an earlier article “How not to run a price promotion and what to do instead.”
So, there’s a clear argument to say that if questionable sales techniques have been used, the contrapreneur may have made misrepresentations to induce people to enter into a contract for the course on offer. If they have, this may give you grounds to claim a refund.
Now let’s look at the contract for purchase of the course.
One of the events I went to was a multi-speaker event. Each speaker was selling their own courses, products and access to their exclusive mastermind groups, but they were all using the same order form when people rushed to the back of the room to sign up.
Although I didn’t sign up, I obtained a copy of the order form to see what it said.
When I read it, I noticed two very important points.
First, the contract was with the promoter of the event, not the speakers themselves. The promoter was accepting the money on behalf of the speakers so nobody signing up had any direct contractual relationship with the speaker themselves.
This meant that taking legal action against the speaker for breach of contract would be almost impossible.
Any claim for breach of contract would be against the promoter, but that was equally difficult due to the second issue.
The second issue was that the terms and conditions on the back of the order form were very generic and full of disclaimers. They basically said that the promoter was not responsible for the contents of the course and products being sold, you were signing up at your own risk and there were no guarantees of success.
Having said this, if you went to a contrapreneur’s own live event and signed up for one of their courses whilst there, you may well have a direct contractual relationship with them. This could improve your chances of success in a future legal dispute with them, but it will still depend on what the contract actually says.
Now, the final issue to consider is whether the information given on the course is accurate and good advice.
Let’s say that the course was sold on the promise that “within 12 months or less you could be financially free by investing in property”.
If you take the course and don’t become financially free in 12 months or less, does this mean you can sue the contrapreneur and get your money back?
Well, it depends.
First, it depends on whether you actually followed their advice. If you didn’t follow their advice and you didn’t put in the work required, it’s difficult to blame them if you don’t see any results.
However, you may still have a chance of a claim if the course was mis-sold. If the sales pitch didn’t make it clear what would be involved in becoming financially free and explain the amount of work you would have to put in, you may still have a claim.
Second, if you tried following the advice and it turned out to be wrong, this could be your best option for getting your money back. A breach of contract claim may still be difficult but now you may have other options open to you. For example, you may be able to claim that the contrapreneur’s advice was negligent.
Whenever you are taking legal action, it’s important to be clear that you have the right to do so. Feeling that you have been cheated out of your money isn’t enough. You must have a solid legal basis from which to start a claim, for example you could claim misrepresentation, breach of contract or negligence.
You also need to have evidence to support your claim.
In this case, the evidence you would need is as follows:
- you need to be very clear about what was said in the sales pitch to convince you to sign up;
- you need a copy of the contract you entered into; and finally
- you need to analyse the course contents to see if it is accurate. (This may require the assistance of an expert property investor unless the information is blatantly wrong.)
If you don’t have all of this information, you may need to go to another free event to obtain it. Recording the events is often banned, but there is nothing stopping you from making detailed notes of what is said in any sales pitch.
When you have all of your evidence together, you should send the contrapreneur a letter of claim. In this, you explain what they have done wrong, what evidence you have to prove it and what remedy you want, i.e., that you want your money back.
You can then say if they don’t give you a refund you will start legal action against them. For any claim under £10,000 you can use the small claims court. This is very straight forward and it’s easy to issue a claim.
I explained more about the process in this article “How to win in court without a lawyer”.
However, if you’re not sure about the strength of your case and need some advice, please feel free to email me and I will happily talk through your options.