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Hunter falls foul of EU law in contract case

Wellington boot brand Hunter’s contract with agents has fallen foul of European regulations, according to a recent High Court judgment.

The business has been fighting a two-year case brought against it by footwear agent Charles Shearman after his position was terminated without notice.

Shearman claimed he had been dropped without good reason and was owed nearly £1.5m in compensation, prompting Hunter to seek a court declaration in favour of the brand’s interpretation of the contract. Hunter argued that it owed no more than £204,000.

But, noting there was “a big gap” between the two amounts, Judge Mackie QC ruled that a particular clause in the contract between Hunter and Shearman was “not consistent with the [commercial agents] regulations”.

Hunter now faces legal costs for the trial and the compensation paid to Shearman, the amount of which is confidential. Sources suggested it could also face further fees as it may have to draw up new contracts with its other agents.

Shearman’s legal representative, Fox Williams partner Stephen Sidkin, said: “Hunter’s interpretation of the regulations – in which it argued it could take the lesser of indemnity or compensation – actually hampered its own position.

“By including a provision that sought to put it in the best position in all eventualities, in the court’s judgment it lost the protection of the election for an indemnity.”

A spokesman for Hunter’s law firm Mishcon de Reya confirmed the company “had a dispute with an agent and the dispute was settled on confidential terms”.

The spokesman added: “Hunter is pleased with the terms of the settlement but can say no more due to confidentiality restrictions, save that recent numbers quoted by legal sources regarding the value of the claim are significantly wide of  the mark.”

Hunter recently announced plans to roll out a new sub-brand, Hunter Original, introducing categories including outerwear, knitwear and accessories for autumn 14 (Drapers, January 25). The brand will show at London Fashion Week, which runs from February 14-18. Creative director Alasdhair Willis said the move would allow the brand to “realise its true potential”.

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