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Is it OK to block a(n) (ex) client's email?

We have a client that we are dis-engaging - is it OK for me to block his emails..?

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I will try and keep a long story short but we have been trying to get a terrible client on the straight and narrow for too many years. After he sent an abusive email last year we dis-engaged him but as he had been billed for accounts work in advance, agreed to complete the contracted work. 13 months later we still haven't managed to finally sever ties. We still pay his software subscriptions for which he owes us money. Every time he emails it completely ruins mine (or whichever colleague's) day). I will be sending him a final letter to tell him that's it - we will only communicate with your new accountant in future - but wondered how ethical it is to block receipt of any future emails from him so we can get on with our lives and avoid the stress. 

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By SXGuy
12th Jun 2020 08:33

I don't know about the ethical stand point, you may need to speak to your governing bodies ethical department, but personally, if all you receive is abuse when contacted, id be inclined to block his emails.

The only downside to this is, if you need to recover monies owed and it ends up in small claims, he could argue that you blocking his emails meant he couldn't resolve the issue, whether or not this would damage your claim I don't know.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
12th Jun 2020 08:48

I think if you formally let him know you will not be corresponding via email or phone it would be OK if your engagement has ceased.

Don't just block or ignore without warning.

I have done a "cease and desist" type warning before to a tax dodger who wanted us to "simplify" his situation by ignoring all his income. I also have the pleasure of writing to his (very nice) wife to explain why I wouldn't be acting for her either. Not heard from either of them again.

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By Truthsayer
12th Jun 2020 09:40

If a PITA ex-client sends abusive emails, it is surely better to receive them so you know what he is thinking. You don't have to respond unless you wish to.

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By lionofludesch
12th Jun 2020 10:48

Tough one, because he owes you money. But I wouldn't stand for gratuitous abuse.

I'd probably write to him saying pay up or we'll stop paying your software subscriptions and get yourself a new accountant, if anyone will take on a foul-mouthed idiot like you. In the meantime, we won't be dealing with any further communication from you by email, telephone or post.

I'd also consider passing abusive communications to the peelers. If they popped round for an "educational chat", that might do a world of good.

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By Felis Catus
12th Jun 2020 11:04

You are perfectly entitled to block him as no one is required to tolerate abuse and your professional body would find itself on the wrong side of the law if it insisted that you allow someone to abuse you. As regards monies owed, unless it is a substantial amount I would be inclined to forget it.

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By Cloudcounter
12th Jun 2020 12:30

I don't see anything wrong with blocking emails. However, you run the risk that the client will simply pick up the phone instead.

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By Cardigan
12th Jun 2020 14:50

You could set up an auto-respond so that he gets an email saying that his email has not been read or whatever you need to say. The email can be automatically sent to a hidden folder in your email software, so you can look if you want to.

As stated already, it could drive them to phone you!

Depending on how much money is involved, it might be better for your sanity to just cut your losses. We decided not to run client's accounting software through our practice for this very reason. They pay their own subscriptions.

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A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
12th Jun 2020 16:09

If very abusive you could look to the Malicious Communications Act. As its an ex-client I don't see a problem with a standard automated reply to the effect that as we no longer act for you we will not accept electronic communications from you. I don't see a problem with blocking his phone number or refusing to take calls either.

Regarding the software just notify him you will not continue paying, and if it is a transferable subscription like Xero, set up a transfer request to his email.

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By atleastisoundknowledgable...
12th Jun 2020 22:21

When a client leaves and I have their Xero subscription, I let them know that they have 7 days to give me an email address to transfer the subscription to and that if that person doesn’t accept it within 7 days from me sending it, I will cancel the subscription.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
By bendybod
16th Jun 2020 10:15

That's a good idea.

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By Cheshire
13th Jun 2020 13:39

You dont say if his returns that you agreed to do have actually been completed.

If this is causing so much stress, dump from a great height. Warn first as has been suggested, re the software, warn also re the unacceptable emails and that you will not respond after x date, then carry out your threat. Like a child, you have to do what you have stated you will do. Then drop his contacts to spam and do not open them and do not respond, at all.

Stress is not worth it, there is more to life than dealing with such obnoxious people.

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By Mr_awol
15th Jun 2020 16:16

Invite him round to discuss the matter in person. Most people don't like confrontation in person but are quite willing to throw their weight about from a distance.

Unless he's bigger than you of course - or some sort of cage fighter. If either of those apply, probably best not to encourage him round for a chat :)

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By Paul D Utherone
15th Jun 2020 18:15

Can you set an auto responder for his email address delete emails having first sent an email with a copy of your final letter as an attachment, along with the message:

"As advised in our letter of dd mmm yyyy (copy attached) we have completed all work for which we were engaged by you, and are now willing only correspond with your new accountant to provide reasonably required information to enable him to act for you. Please advise the name and address of your new accountant, and let us have your authority IN WRITING to provide relevant information to him."

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By pauljohnston
16th Jun 2020 10:39

To add to Paul UD advice put a date say 29 SEptember 2020. Then if any requests for information are received after this date there will be a retrial fee minumum £150 plus VAT paid upfront

I am amazed how often this avoids digging up old files and more importantly questions well after the client has left.

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By ann12
03rd Jul 2020 10:38

I personally think Paul U Utherone has a good solution. This would mean you get to save the emails if things turn ugly at a later date. I have not personally had problems with clients such as this, but, as it appears from your statement he is not truthful with information, I would be inclined to keep the emails he sends. That way if he starts critizing you for something such as your professional conduct you have the evidence of his abusive emails to you.
I am not suggesting he would, but I have learnt through other things in life, the more evidence you can produce the better.

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