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MacShane calls for end to corporate libel bullying
26 Jun 2012
BY JO GLANVILLE

Denis MacShane MP today called for an end to corporate libel bullying of consumer groups and criticised the law firm Schillings for “showering writs” on consumer groups, websites and lawyers.

Speaking in support of the introduction of a new clause in the defamation bill that would bar corporations from suing for libel, the MP for Rotherham and former Europe Minister criticised the practice of “civil recovery”, where retailers hire firms to pursue shoplifters for compensation, describing it as “a £15-million-pound racket”.

Schillings has been sending intimidating letters to consumer forums, solicitors and consumer advice groups.  The consumer website Legal Beagles today published a letter it received from the law firm.

Acting on behalf civil recovery firm Retail Loss Prevention  (RLP), Schillings accused Legal Beagles of a ”vindictive campaign of harassment” and ”defamation” and demanded that the site supply the personal information of some of their members who posted comments on the site.

In May RLP lost a landmark case — the first “civil recovery” case to be contested. Two teenage girls were caught shoplifting, but although the goods were recovered and put on sale, the retailer claimed that its total losses amounted to almost £300. On cross-examination, this was demonstrated to be an exaggeration. The case represents a serious blow to RLP’s business, now that the amounts demanded in compensation have been challenged.

However, instead of retiring gracefully, RLP employed Schillings to threaten not only Legal Beagles but the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), along with one of its employees and solicitors representing the defendants in the case.

According to research by CAB, more than 750,000 people have been asked to make substantial payments to civil recovery firms since 1998 — and there are concerns that it is the vulnerable who are most at risk.

MacShane pushed for a new clause that would signal to Retail Loss Prevention  that “their little game is over”. The Libel Reform Campaign, which includes Index on Censorship, is calling for measures to restrict corporations from using libel laws to silence criticism. Corporations would still be able to use malicious falsehood legislation and company directors could sue in their own name.

The clause was put to the vote in the last session of the public bill committee on the defamation bill today, but was defeated. But the House of Lords can still push this urgent reform through.

Jo Glanville is Editor of Index on Censorship

148 responses to “MacShane calls for end to corporate libel bullying”

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  99. Good article. It’s always good to see an attempt to stop bullying from large organizations…as long as it doesn’t infringe on rights.

  100. Good article. It’s always good to see an attempt to stop bullying from large organizations…as long as it doesn’t infringe on rights.

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  114. a great post an important news, thx

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  117. Marie P. says:

    Lobbying and Bullying truly go hand and hand, it’s disgusting…

  118. Marie P. says:

    Lobbying and Bullying truly go hand and hand, it’s disgusting…

  119. BenG says:

    Jo

    A great, informative article, that really tackles the meat of the issue. Libel legislation is a very delicate area of law, and you have approached it as such. Sadly, it continues to be used as a tool for bullying, so articles like this are greatly needed to raise awareness of the issue. Great article.

  120. BenG says:

    Jo

    A great, informative article, that really tackles the meat of the issue. Libel legislation is a very delicate area of law, and you have approached it as such. Sadly, it continues to be used as a tool for bullying, so articles like this are greatly needed to raise awareness of the issue. Great article.

  121. okay they have put the new clause

  122. okay they have put the new clause

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  127. According to research by CAB, more than 750,000 people have been asked to make substantial payments to civil recovery firms since 1998 — and there are concerns that it is the vulnerable who are most at risk.

  128. According to research by CAB, more than 750,000 people have been asked to make substantial payments to civil recovery firms since 1998 — and there are concerns that it is the vulnerable who are most at risk.

  129. Toko Susu says:

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  130. Toko Susu says:

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  131. This topic is a little delicate for the form in the one that is handled ‘ by the persons who are in the power ‘ and every who uses it to his expediency! It is important to analyze this topic thoroughly so that it goes so far as to incorporate a law that is not used to intimidate the persons. It is good to have little information of these topics.

    Rafael Rivas!

  132. This topic is a little delicate for the form in the one that is handled ‘ by the persons who are in the power ‘ and every who uses it to his expediency! It is important to analyze this topic thoroughly so that it goes so far as to incorporate a law that is not used to intimidate the persons. It is good to have little information of these topics.

    Rafael Rivas!

  133. Inma Ruiz says:

    Hi, is very good!

  134. Inma Ruiz says:

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  135. Jim Loxley says:

    Libel legislation will always be an extremely tricky area of law and corporations will continue to use it as a tool for bullying. I hope that these changes will be seen in order to protect people from this practice. Good write-up.

  136. Jim Loxley says:

    Libel legislation will always be an extremely tricky area of law and corporations will continue to use it as a tool for bullying. I hope that these changes will be seen in order to protect people from this practice. Good write-up.

  137. bastante interesante el post creo q no es tan comun por lo menos aqui en chile saludos!!

  138. bastante interesante el post creo q no es tan comun por lo menos aqui en chile saludos!!

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  142. John Jairo says:

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  143. […] MP argued in favour of a new clause that would bar corporations from suing for libel.  There is a post about this on the Free Speech blog.  The proposed new clause was rejected by the Committee which ultimately […]

  144. […] MP argued in favour of a new clause that would bar corporations from suing for libel.  There is a post about this on the Free Speech blog.  The proposed new clause was rejected by the Committee which ultimately […]