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Does it pay to be petty? 22-year battle over 21p

As a nation, we’re underpaid and ripped off nearly every day. It's quite likely that you've been charged unfairly at some point, but just paid up because it was too much of a hassle to fight. Corporations rely on this mentality.

Caitlin Hall


Woman with blue nails holding a 1 pence coin from a pile

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As a nation, we’re underpaid and ripped off nearly every day. It’s quite likely that you’ve had an unfairly issued parking ticket in your time, or you’ve been charged for something you shouldn’t have, but just paid up quietly because it was too much of a hassle to do something about it. Most corporations rely on this mentality.

With entire legal teams at their disposal, it’s no skin off their nose to fight something in a small claims court; however, it takes far more energy and effort for the average person to ensure justice is served. Even if the ‘little man’ wins, it’s a drop in the ocean for these huge organisations, if they’ve to pay back what someone is rightfully owed. And, with no lesson learned, they’ll simply do the same to the next person.

A 66-year-old Indian lawyer has been in the news recently for winning back a 20-rupee (21p) refund, after he was overcharged for a rail ticket in 1999.

After more than a hundred court hearings, Tungnath Chaturvedi received this overpayment, together with interest owed, as his 22-year legal battle came to a close. Whilst the entire refund only came to £2.90—even with two decades of interest—the rail company was also fined £154, to be paid to Chaturvedi, as ordered by the court.

Chaturvedi said that it wasn’t ‘the money that mattered’, it was the principle of the matter…’the “fight for justice and fight against corruption’.

The cost-of-living crisis continues to hang over us, which includes rising energy, petrol, and food prices. Some of these issues come down to greed. The UK Big Six energy firms made more than £1bn in profits at the start of this year, and BP has recently reported their biggest profits in 14 years. With the rich-poor gap widening all the time, it makes sense that the average citizen wants to ‘stick it to the man’ wherever they can.

As is the case with parking tickets and DVLA fines, many companies often try to quash rebellion from the outset, dangling a smaller fee for people who pay within a certain time limit. By fighting the accusation, you could potentially surpass this deadline and end up paying more if your claim gets rejected, which is the most likely scenario. They prey on our need to keep hold of the money we have.

Traffic warden giving a fine on a parked car

The internet is rife with shady business practices, with people not receiving products they’ve ordered online, or that the actual product they receive is vastly different to what was originally advertised. Attempting to get your money back can be a gruelling task.

If you pay with a debit card, however, you can call your bank, explain the situation and have them reverse the transaction, which should result in you getting your money back. If you think something you’re about to purchase is dodgy from the outset, the most obvious advice is to avoid purchasing it at all; but, if you want to take that chance, the best buyer protection comes from PayPal. They offer a 180-Day Refund Policy, which means you can cancel the payment yourself if your item never arrives.

The simplest solution is to just pay up, but with the UK’s cost-of-living crisis worsening every day, it’s no surprise that people are choosing to fight against these huge corporations or scammers to get their hard-earned money back. In Tungnath Chaturvedi’s case, every penny definitely counts.

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