Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | July 6, 2009
Home : Business
Paymaster, Bill Express finally head to court
Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

The multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by bill-payment company Paymaster Jamaica Limited against its competitor, GraceKennedy Remittance Services Limited, will proceed after eight years of gestation.

Paymaster has accused the remittance company of allegedly copying its idea for bill-payment services. The remittance company has filed a defence denying the allegations.

The suit, which was filed in 2001, is to proceed in the Supreme Court following a ruling last Friday by the Court of Appeal dismissing an appeal by the remittance company.

Application to strike out

After Paymaster filed the suit, it filed a supplemental witness statement for special damages for $652 million for alleged breach of copyright. Paymaster said it lost that amount in business as a result of predatory pricing by the remittance company which was designed to drive Paymaster out of the market.

The remittance company denied the allegations and applied to the Supreme Court to strike out the statement on the grounds that the allegations were irrelevant to the claim. It also sought to have the suit dismissed because it claimed that the allegations in the suit amounted to a change in the case.

Supreme Court judge Leighton Pusey turned down the applications in January. The remittance company appealed.

Grounds for lawsuit

The Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Howard Cooke, Hazel Harris and Mahadev Dukharan, heard legal arguments and on Friday dismissed the appeal. The judges upheld submissions from Paymaster's lawyers, Hilary Phillips, QC, and Denise Kitson, that the statement raised no new claim.

Audrey Marks, managing director of Paymaster, said she started the business to assist Jamaicans to pay their utility bills at one central location. She said she contracted Paul Lowe to develop computer software that would assist Paymaster's multi-payment system. In the 1990s, she said she entered into negotiations with GraceKennedy Remittance Services Limited to invest in Paymaster.

She claims that during the negotiations, she shared with the remittance company a business plan, operational procedures, technology, architecture and marketing strategy. She contends further that negotiations broke down and the remittance company subsequently started its own bill-payment service.

Stolen information

It is Paymaster's contention that the remittance company used the information shared with it in confidence to set up competing bill-payment services under the Bill Express brand.

Lowe is also a defendant in the suit as Paymaster contends that the remittance company induced him to breach his contract with Paymaster and sell the software programme which he had originally developed for the firm.

GraceKennedy Remittance Ser-vices has also been sued for passing off its bill-payment service as that of its own and for allegedly inducing Lowe to breach his contract to Paymaster. It is also seeking damages for various alleged wrongs.

The defendant has denied the allegations in its defence to the suit.


Home | Lead Stories | News | Business | Sport | Commentary | Letters | Entertainment | Flair | International |