A Havant couple were cold-called and chased for hundreds of pounds after they were persuaded to sign up with a PPI-style claims company.
Bob and Sharon Liddle believed the ‘no win no fee’ style service from Scottish firm Resolution Claims was right up their street – until they started getting bombarded by the Glasgow firm demanding an up front payment of £395.
Their problems all began last February when a company representative assured them they were due a windfall of £16,000 because an endowment insurance policy had left them with a shortfall on surrender when they converted to a repayment mortgage.
Bob explained: ‘I had a long conversation on the phone with the rep who seemed genuinely knowledgeable about our situation and confident we had a sound case.
‘Some paperwork came through the post to say they were in touch with Axa insurance and we’d hear back from them shortly. It said that if the claim was successful they’d take 20 per cent of our compensation, which I understood was the way these firms work.
‘Then we started getting threatening calls demanding advance payment of the £395. They said I’d agreed to their terms and conditions of service when they first called us up.
‘I can remember being asked if I understood there was a cancellation period, but nobody told me what it was or ever mentioned a fee.
‘When I protested we’d been mislead, I was gutted when a lady from their customer service team insisted it was in the small print of the paperwork I signed and they had proof of an agreement.
‘If I didn’t like it, tough – the cancellation fee was £750. If I refused to pay it they’d take me to court because I’d signed a legal document.
‘They refused to discuss how the claim was progressing until I sent them the fee. From there on our lives were made a misery.
‘Every day text message demands were sent to my mobile, and Sharon was sick with worry after repeatedly being bullied and threatened on the phone.
‘Although it was a lot of money, in the end we sent them a cheque just to get them off our back.’
Bob says the demanding calls stopped so he left it for about six weeks before he phoned Resolution Clams for a progress update.
He was told a member of staff would look into it and ring him back. When 10 days later his call hadn’t been returned, he rang again, but this time he couldn’t get a reply.
Over a period of three weeks he made repeated calls to the firm, all of which went unanswered. Simultaneously, a string of emails requesting a refund of the initial £395 fee were unexpectedly bounced back.
Angry and not knowing where to turn, the retired plumber contacted Streetwise to ask if we could make some enquiries about the firm and help him get the refund.
We first checked whether the firm was registered to trade by the Ministry of Justice, the claims management regulator. We were not surprised when a search of the register quickly drew a blank, confirming the firm were trading illegally.
A second line of enquiry centred on whether Resolution Claims had limited liability status because the tell-tale Ltd., didn’t appear behind their name.
In our experience many sole traders behind troublesome unregulated businesses were previously disqualified company directors.
When we searched the Companies House disqualified directors data our suspicions were confirmed.
Streetwise discovered the person behind the company, Lee Wilson, had been disqualified in 2010 after Stanley Porters and Co Ltd, another compensation company he previously ran in Cheshire, went to the wall in 2007 owing more than £500,000 to 1300 creditors.
A further business venture, Wise Claims, was abruptly shut down after offering the same services.
We soon became aware that trading standards and other authorities had been swamped with complaints about Claims Resolution and were investigating.
We sent a copy of Bob Liddle’s complaint to its trading address in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, but it wasn’t answered and we learned it was nothing more than a PO Box number.
All our efforts to contact Mr Wilson drew a blank. The phone went unanswered and our emails and text messages were ignored.
‘No win, no fee’ cold calling compensation companies are an ongoing matter of concern for regulators and the national fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud.
The sector has a history of being riddled with convincing crooks deceiving vulnerable people into believing they were due compensation for everything from delayed holiday flights, personal injury, and mis-sold financial products.
Recently officials at The Ministry of Justice have stepped up targeted enforcement action.
They’ve closed down a number of claims management firms suspected of making nuisance calls and ripping off the public through misleading marketing calls.
Complaints about rogue practices by regulated claims management firms can be taken up by the Legal ombudsman at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/
In view of the number of outstanding complaints about the unregulated Resolution Claims company, Streetwise advised the Liddles to report the incident to trading standards and Action Fraud. We gave them a copy of our background investigation file.
Bob accepted he’d been chastened by the experience.
‘We went through months of hassle but it became clear the chances of getting our money back were pretty slim. We can’t thank you enough for looking into this matter for us.’