King’s College law lecturer sues posh estate agents over ‘rip-off fees’
Former Clifford Chance solicitor and consumer and competition law specialist fuming over £600 bill for light fitting
Foxtons — estate agency to oligarchs and petrodollar sheiks — may have met its match in a consumer protection specialist law lecturer and former Clifford Chance lawyer, who is launching a group action against the posh chain.
Chris Townley (pictured below) — currently a lecturer at London University’s King’s College — has instructed renowned multi-party action law firm Leigh Day in what could be a landmark claim alleging the up-market agents have been ripping off landlords for years.
The row — which was triggered by Foxtons’ £616 bill for changing a light fitting at a south London property let out by Townely — could cost the agency as much as £42 million, according to a report today on the London Evening Standard’s website.
Townley — who has been with the law school for the last eight years — and his legal team have hit Foxtons with a claim form. He is encouraging other landlords using the agency to join the action.
According to the Standard, the Foxtons chain is valued at £800m and manages some 6,000 rental properties across the UK.
Litigation specialist solicitor at Leigh Day, Chris Haan, told the newspaper:
“It’s a very significant case and there are potentially thousands of claimants out there. The case could significantly change what charges estate agents bring to landlords in the future.”
While Townley said:
“Who knows how many people will join the action. If a lot do though it could really revolutionise the rental market. I’m a simple guy. I’m not a hero by doing this, they ripped me off and I just want my money back.”
“Simple guy” Townley read law himself at Durham University before receiving an LLM from the College of Europe in Bruges and a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence.
After doing a stint with magic circle law firm Clifford Chance, Townley joined the Office of Fair Trading before moving to academia.
The King’s law faculty website lists Townely’s research interests as focusing on the “relationship between competition law, particularly European competition law and other public policy areas, such as environmental or cultural policy”.
If Foxtons’ in-house lawyers were quacking, the agency certainly wasn’t showing any signs of fear. It told the Standard that it was “ incredibly disappointed … when any customer is dissatisfied with the service they have received”.
A spokesman would not go into details regarding the potential group action, but he did tell the newspaper:
“We are satisfied though that our fees are clearly laid out within our terms and conditions and that approvals are obtained from our landlords before works commence on their property.”