I'm sure you'd consider it inappropriate if your plumber demanded 10x more than his fee for an unpaid bill, particularly when it was an oversight and you immediately agreed to pay the normal rate.
If the plumber had to engage debt recovery services, or suffered consequential losses - bank charges, for example, due to my non-arrival of payment - then said plumber would be entitled to recover said losses*. Furthermore, we have something called the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interests) Act that allows businesses to charge statutory fees and interest over and above the base rate for late payment.
So I would not be surprised if a plumber charged me more if, for any reason, my payment was missed. And it would not take too long for these costs to escalate, particularly with bank charges, or losses to others such as missed salary payments to employees. I feel these charges would not be seen as extortion, or illegal, but US law might be different.
Would I pay 10x the rate? If the plumber could demonstrate the fees were reasonable (a prerequisite of Pre-Action Conduct* (AKA taking someone to court)) then I think payment would be the cheaper option. Again, this is not crookery or scamming. Its seeking legal redress for losses of what the claimant thinks their image is worth.
As soon as legal counsel receive instruction and prepare a case costs can spiral dramatically, so if said plumber shows 10x is reasonable then yes I would pay and stay out of court and avoid losing legal costs. As in the case of Getty and the theoretical plumber, it all depends on what evidence each side must disclose* and how strong they feel the case is, if there are any precedents and if they wish to use this case to apply the precedent in future to others.
If you want to test if Getty's fees are reasonable, then I wish you luck.
*Relevant in the UK. Unknown elsewhere.
Edited by decosnapper, 15 August 2013 - 04:28 AM.