Utility Alliance – another Cold Call possible scam? (01429802623)

I  received a call from a company calling themselves ‘Utility Alliance’, asking to speak to the “person responsible” for the utilities at my company. When I explained that we don’t take cold calls, I was informed that the call was related to “important change in government legislation” and that she wouldn’t tell me what it was due to DPA. She also claimed that Utility Alliance was appointed by the UK Government (a claim which I can find no evidence of online). They called from the number 01429802623.

When I asked the caller to explain what the call is regarding, and the “important change in government legislation” I was told this wasn’t possible due to the Data Protection Act.

My company receives daily calls from companies selling gas and electricity services, some of whom are evasive and aggressive in their tactics, so I am reluctant to speak to anyone over the telephone who I have never heard of and who is unprepared to explain the full reason for their call. So I contacted Utility Alliance to ask what they legislation was and why the caller wasn’t prepared to give me at least some basic information. I was told to contact ian.willis@utility-alliance.com, which I did.

Utility Alliance is NOT associated with the UK Government

I later received a call from Ian Willis who said that the reason for the call was regarding either Business to Business energy supply, or because of new water tariffs coming into force in the future (which I was already aware of). He confirmed that Utility Alliance is NOT associated with the UK Government and that he would be looking into why the staff member lied.

Turns out my hunch was correct and the employee at UA hadn’t been entirely truthful. Mr Willis may not have known about this tactic of lying about being associated with the Government, and he may not have known about staff hiding behind the Data Protection Act…but I’m pretty confident that culture has come from someone within the company.

Update: 06/02/2016

On 6th Feb 2017 I received an email from Ian Willis, defending his employee and threatening further action – presumably legal – if I didn’t remove this post. Naturally I won’t be removing it; the facts are as I have said them. Presumably Mr Willis’ company record their calls so I’d be happy to revise this information if he can provide me with the evidence to support his claim that I am be untruthful.

I don’t take threats lightly, and I will not be hushed just because the manager of a business doesn’t like being called out on the behaviour of one of his employees. If course, if Utility Alliance can supply evidence to prove I’m being untruthful I’d happily apologise, but of course they won’t be able to as a call recording will clearly support all of my points made in this post.

Ireland Commercial Register Scam

The Ireland Commercial Register Scam is just the latest in a long line of scams targetting businesses. It attempts to con unsuspecting business owners and sole traders for €993. It is a copy of other scam letter just like it such as the Commercial Register, the Scottish Commercial Register and the England Commercial Register.

If you read into the comments of the aforementioned scams, you’ll see that the company behind it call themself Direct Publisher S.L.U and are based in Madrid. However, the letter usually has a French postmark on it.

The letter is made to look official and gives the impression that it is linked to or affiliated with the Irish Government. It isn’t.

Don’t pay – just file it in the bin

I strongly recommend that you don’t pay or converse with the Ireland Commercial Register in any way. Just throw the letter in the bin where it belongs along with all the other rubbish.

 

Scottish Commercial Register Scam

Scottish Commercial Register scam

Direct Publisher SLU are at it again with another scam, this time the Scottish Commercial Register Scam. Those pesky Spaniards just don’t seem to give up with these attempts to defraud business owners out of money. So, I continue my quest to warn more people of it and help save people some of their hard earned money.

This scam has many different faces, the main one being the Commercial Register scam. The fraud is pretty much identical in every way. It starts with a letter which asks you to update your records and which appears to be from an official UK Government body. However, if you turn over the page there are a lot of terms and conditions in gray. Once you’ve signed you’ll be hounded monthly with threats of legal action.

“‘Scottish Commercial Register’ notices requesting €990 to approve info held. They’re not legitimate and have no connection to us.” Companies House Edinburgh Office

If you’ve found yourself in the same boat that I did, don’t panic. My advice is to ignore them and eventually they will go away. In the meantime, have a read here. It’s got loads of information from other small business owners who have been targeted by other various scams.

If you’ve found this page helpful, drop me a line in the comments section below. You might also like to consider making a small donation to help towards it’s upkeep.

Welsh Commercial Register scam | Direct Publisher S.L.U.

Welsh Commercial Register scam

The Welsh Commercial Register scam is one of many scams designed to dupe genuine business owners out of money by getting them to sign a letter to agree to advertise on their website. It is being made by a Spanish company called Direct Publisher S.L.U. who claim to be based in Madrid.

The website in question is poorly designed and only their as a way to convince business owners that they must pay for the advert or risk legal action.

The Welsh Commercial Register scam is very similar to other scams targeted at small business owners in Scotland, England and across the UK in general. There are various websites warning business owners not to pay for the advert, but sadly some business owners are scared into paying. The most recent scam is the England Commercial Register and Commercial Register which all have similar guises and are designed to con business out of money.

Many people have reported the Welsh Commercial Register scam to Action Fraud and it has been reported on numerous websites including Wales Online and the Farmers’ Union of Wales. The advice is not to pay the bill.

For more details on how this scam works, click here.

 

Commercial Register (company information and contact details)

Commercial Register

Commercial Register is a scam trade name set up by a company called Direct Publisher S.L.U based in Madrid, Spain which attempts to dupe companies into pay a 993 fee (or similar amount) to advertise on their extremely amateurish website.  There’s nothing particularly new about this scam and it has all the traits of previous attempts to defraud small business owners. For information relating to the Register of Companies or Commercial Register scam, check the relevant links.

Commercial Register dupe companies into signing a contract for an advert on a very poorly designed website. Once they form is signed companies are bombarded with demands for payment and threats of legal action.

The scam works by sending letters to companies registered with Companies House. The letters are design in such a way that they make the recipient believe that they are required to complete a form to keep their company registered with Commercial Register. In most cases, small business owners are tricked into thinking the letter is an official requirement from the UK Government.

How Commercial Register works

Initially, Commercial Register write to a company and suggest that the company needs to complete a form, suggesting that a failure to do so will result in your listing being removed from the website. Within the letter – cleverly hidden in later paragraphs – is an explanation that you will have to pay for your listing. The letter is made to appear official.

Once the company have your signed response they become very aggressive in pursuing you for the money, hoping that the pressure – along with a lack of understanding of the law – will convinced companies to pay the 993.

There are no reported instances of Direct Publisher S.L.U taking a company to court.

Commercial Register is a bogus website

The Commercial Register is bogus. Advertising on it will do absolutely nothing to promote your company. In fact, paying for links is something that Google is doing their utmost to prevent. If Google discover the Commercial Register linking to your website, it will probably do it more harm than good.

What are the contact details?

Commercial Register claim to be based in Madrid. There contact details are:

Direct Publisher S.L.U.
Fuencarral, 160
Entpta. 7
E-28010 Madrid

Tel: +34 917 728 032
Fax: +34 912 727 288

You can see a map of the area that Direct Publisher S.L.U are based in here.

scam

Threatening letter from Commercial Register

Threatening letter from Commercial Register

I’ve received yet another threatening letter from Commercial Register and their so called ‘Legal Department’.

Dated 07/10/2016 and received 11/10/2016, this letter informs me that Direct Publisher SLU are giving me a “final deadline of eight days”, failing which they will be “forced to forward the car to an international debt recovery agency”. The letter also goes on to say that my company will “have to bear all additional costs generated by their services and those related to any legal action brought in court to enforce [my] obligations”.

As usual, Direct Publisher are demanding 993 and requesting that I forward the money to their Ibercaja Banco S.A. account. And as usual, I have not intention of paying them.

 

Reported to Royal Mail

I have also been contacted today by a reader of my blog relating to the Commercial Register Scam, who has advised me to report this fraud to Royal Mail. Royal Mail operate a department which aims to prevent scam letters being delivered. The contributor, DC, has received a response from Royal Mail which says that will use the evidence to prevent further fraud mail.

You can find our more about how to send a report of scam mail to Royal Mail here.

 

England Commercial Register Scam

England Commercial Register

Thank you to Chris who sent me a copy of the England Commercial Register scam letter (a copy of which is below), relating to the Commercial Register scam. This scam has many different guises (see Scottish Commercial Register scam and England Commercial Register Scam) but the way it works is almost identical.

Basically, the people behind the England Commercial Register scam are based in Spain and send a letter to companies (usually sole traders and small businesses) hoodwinking people into signing a letter which looks official. Once you’ve signed, they send you a bill for advertising on their websites.

First of all, let’s take a look at the general layout of the letter. It certainly attempts to look official. Let’s have a look at some of the points in more detail.

A – ‘Publication of Companies’ gives the impression it is related to Companies House

B – ‘Filing Deadline’ attempts to give the impression that the document has to be returned by a specific date to ensure a listing occurs

C – ‘Removal of your Company Details’ suggests that you have something to lose. Actually, you only have a lot of time to waste by completely the form!

D – The opening paragraph suggests that you have some official deadline to meet

E – The final paragraph, which contains confirmation that this is a private company, is in the middle of the paragraph. It also confirms that Direct Publisher at targeting businesses and not private individuals. This is because Direct Publisher know that the law provides much more protection to private individuals rather than businesses.

Note: there has been some suggestion that you could send the pre-addressed envelope back to Direct Publisher full of rubbish. Don’t waste your time as Royal Mail have confirmed they won’t forward it on.

England Commercial Register letter
England Commercial Register letter

Talkfair (IceComms) – why you should avoid this company

Talkfair logo

A little while ago we received a telephone call from a company called Talkfair (now called IceComms), who claimed that they could buy our company out of our existing mobile phone contract with EE and start us on a new contract with O2 on better terms. They said that they would use the sign-up bonus from O2 of £5500 to off-set this against the early contract termination fee with EE of the same amount.

The deal sounded worthwhile and having looked into it our MD decided to go for it. Sadly, however, this would start many months of problems which Talkfair would quickly attempt to wash their hands of.

 

Signal problems

It became apparently within 24 hours of using our new O2 contract, that it was not all it was supposed to be. The mobile phone signal was dreadful. So bad, in fact, that we almost never managed to get a call on our handsets without them being sent to voicemail. SMS messages could take hours to arrive (if at all) and we were quickly losing business. This despite the O2 signal checker saying that coverage was good on 2G.

We immediately contacted Talkfair and explained of the problems. Talkfair said that the would speak to EE and have the old contract re-instigated but after almost 3 weeks of going backwards and forwards we were told this wasn’t going to happen. 8 weeks later we were still going backwards with Talkfair. Getting calls and emailed returned was almost impossible and we faced a £5500 bill just to get back our old level of service from EE.

 

No regulation

Unfortunately, there is no regulator for business-to-business contracts such as this, unlike consumer contracts for mobile phone contracts which are regulated and supported by an Ombudsman service.

 

A very costly mistake

After months of trying to get Talkfair to sort out the mess, we were forced to pay around £4500 to get out of the terrible contract and back onto EE. Even today (28th August 2016) we are still trying to get hold of Carl and James at Talkfair to get us back onto our EE tariff some 4 month after they contacted us. Their customer service is abysmal.

I cannot stress enough how you should avoid this company. They’ll promise the earth to sign you up but they’ll leave you deep in the shite when it all goes wrong. It took us 6 months to get back to EE and considerable loss of business.

Don’t just take my word for it – read the online reviews for this company. Complaint after complaint can’t be faked. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

 

Commercial Register scam on Small Businesses

Commercial Register Scam

In June 2016 my company received a letter based on a Commercial Register scam, purporting to be acting on behalf of Companies House. The letter advised us that we needed to complete our company details and return the form to the company in the pre-paid envelope. The form was accidentally completed by the admin team and returned.

Two weeks later, we received a bill for €993 for placing an advert in the ‘Commercial Register’. The invoice came from a Spanish company based in Madrid called Direct Publisher S.L.U. and included a copy of the signed ‘order form’. The order was, apparently, for listing our company in the ‘England Commercial Register’, but it transpired we had actually signed up for an advert on the very poor quality website com-reg.com. We had been hit by the €993 Commercial Register scam. In more recent months, the amount that they have asked other companies for has been £863+vat.

Direct Publish S.L.U. had got us…for now

We had been hoodwinked into signing a contract for an advert, and the actions the company used to obtain the signature weren’t honest, weren’t upfront and hid the real reason for the payment. That’s fraud. Ironically, they’ve also never actually advertised us on the search function within their website so have breached their own contract.

Report the Commercial Register scam & Direct Publisher S.L.U.

I reported Direct Publisher SLU to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, who advised that they were aware of this company and not to pay the bill. A warning has also been issued to farmers. There are reports on Spanish websites of the same where Spanish companies have been duped into this Commercial Register Scam (you can see comments in a translated page here).

Commercial Register letter
An example of a letter from the Commercial Register. As you can see, it looks very official.

The company was clever with the original letter looking to be very official and from a UK Government department. So be careful what you sign, and definitely don’t pay them. If you receive a similar request, report it to Action Fraud and help them build a case against this dubious Spanish company. Please also share this page to prevent others falling foul of the scam.

I have been contacted by various people by phone, email and via this blog about this company. Here’s what I’ve been told to date:

  • the initial letter looks official and as if it was from Companies House
  • most people can’t recall seeing any terms and conditions or mention of a payment
  • some people have alleged that their signatures have been scanned and then printed on a different contact

I’ll keep updating this blog as more information come in. I recommend that you read the comments section to see more from people who, like you, have ended up here due to the Commercial Register Scam.

What to do next?

What you do next is completely up to you. I recommend:

  • don’t return the form
  • don’t reply to their emails
  • don’t get into a conversation with them – you’ll get wound up going backwards and forwards with their ‘brick wall’ style communication
  • don’t pay them any money, regardless of their idle threats

Direct Publisher masks it’s online identity

According to the Whois results for the dodgy website, the domain name has been hidden using Domains by Proxy. Basically, the public details have been hidden to stop anyone discovering who register the domain and where they may be located. This is a similar tactic used by illegal file-sharing and pirate websites. It appears that this is perfectly legal.

Companies House recognises this Commercial Register scam

Companies House have warned people about the scam (see item 4).

Don’t send a letter back without a stamp

Royal Mail have confirmed that any letters meant for Europe without a stamp will be thrown away, so don’t bother returned the envelope without a stamp. You’re just wasting a good envelope!

Update – 16/06/2016

I decided to write to this unscrupulous company and so sent them an email, saying that we would not be paying it and that we had reported them to Action Fraud. I received the following reply from Ella King <drp133-1@com-reg.com>:

“Dear Mr Hicks

We thank you for your e-mail of 31st May 2016.

We confirm that an advertisement order was placed by [our company name] when returning the original order form to us duly completed, signed and dated.

All the conditions of our commercial offer including a prominent price in bold were given to you at the outset and it can only be expected that you were fully aware of the contractual commitment being entered into.

Since your cancellation request was not sent to us within the contractual cooling off period of fifteen days from the date of signature this order has come into force. Your company’s advertising can be viewed on our website at: www.com-reg.com.

We kindly ask you to honour existing contractual commitments and settle the invoice at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Customer Support Dept.
www.com-reg.com”

Of course, I still had to intention to pay, so replied and said: “as previously advised we will not be making any payment and leave you to take any action you feel necessary”. A couple of days later, I received another email:

“Dear Mr Hicks

In reply to your e-mail of 6th June 2016 we must reaffirm that full consent was given to the business terms for the publication of your professional data on our website upon returning the signed order document.

Absolute Asbetsos Solutions Ltd.’s order has become valid and legally binding since no withdrawal was effected within the contractual cooling off period defined in Point one of order terms and conditions.

We look forward to receiving your payment.

Yours sincerely

Customer Support Dept.
www.com-reg.com”

So I wrote back, and said the following:

“I’ve already made it clear that we will not be paying it. I also left you to take whatever action you feel necessary.

No further correspondence will be entered into.”

That was the last message on 13/06/2016.

Update – 21/06/2016

Today we received a “PAYMENT NOTICE” from Commercial Register scam HQ. I’ve ignored it.

A copy of the payment reminder from Commercial Register
A copy of the payment reminder from Commercial Register

Update – 27/07/2016

Ella King from Direct Publisher S.L.U. has accused this blog of containing “subjective material with no legal foundation or filtering or verification of the veracity of claims made” and that Direct Publisher SLU is a “fully registered business and the order document in question meets all legal criteria” (see comments below).

In response to this I would say that Direct Publisher SLU know exactly what they’re doing and they don’t like being called out on it. Action Fraud have themselves told me (and others) that Direct Publisher SLU is acting fraudulently. That’s fact, not subjection. As for “legal foundation” – if you scan someone’s signature and add it to another form that’s illegal. It is a fact that some of the people who have contacted me (see below) have alleged this has occurred.

Direct Publisher SLU may be a “fully registered company”, but not in the UK. They hide this fact on the original letter in small print and give the overarching impression that they are acting on behalf of Companies House in their initial letter. That’s not illegal, but it’s immoral and if nothing else its hoodwinking.

Update – 16/08/2016

Received a “THIRD REMINDER” regarding the Commercial Register Scam today dated 12.08.2016. I’ve ignored it. This was received after my email to them on 28/07/2016 which read:

“Ella,

Time for you to take this to court. We’re not paying.

I look forward to hearing from your solicitors in due course.

Kind Regards,

Ritchie.”

third-reminder-commercial-register



Update 14/09/2016

I received a letter from Direct Publisher SLU and their ‘Legal Department/Departement Juridique’. The letter is another demand for the invoice to be settled as says that “to date you situation has not been regularized” and that they “demand that the outstanding amount is paid upon reception of this notice.cf1”. I’ve ignore it.

Update – 25/09/2016

A person who has been a regular contributor to this article, Nina Woolcock, has spoken to a solicitor. Whilst I am not a solicitor and unable to offer any legal advice, she has this to say:

“I spoke this week with a solicitor specialising in commercial law/disputes. He said he had only that very morning had a client in with exactly the same issue with Direct Publisher as all of us. He also said, having looked at the evidence, that it is a scam, do not pay anything, do not enter into any communication with them. He interestingly also said there was another scam, virtually identical, about 6 years ago.”

Update 10/10/2016

Traffic to this blog has become exponential compared to a few months ago. I am probably being contacted by 5 people a day on average either reporting that they have been duped by the Commercial Register scam or that they have received a letter. It seems that this is a reincarnation of various other scams, including a European City Guide scam which even has the same greyed out terms and conditions on the reverse of the letter as the current fraud.

Update 11/10/2016 – yet another threatening letter from Commercial Register

I have received yet another threatening letter from Commercial Register, which I’ve file along with all the others. I’ve also reported them to Royal Mail.

Please share this website on social media and spread the word about this dreadful company, and if possible link to the article from your own website. The more people that spread the word, the less people that will be conned!

Thank you

I have been contacted by hundreds (if not thousands) of people who have been touched by this scam and my blog is currently receiving almost 75,000 page views a month. I’m always please to hear from people in the comments section but am unable to reply to individual emails or queries (I’m not a solicitor and can offer no legal advice, so please don’t ask).

If you’ve been helped by this blog or saved money, please consider making a small donation to help towards it’s upkeep.

My correspondence with Direct Publisher SLU is below and I last heard from them in October 2016. My advice is not to enter into any correspondence with them.

Beware: Infoserve are NOT calling you on behalf of Microsoft

Infoserve called today pretending to be calling from Microsoft Bing and said that they need to verify my listing on Bing. I knew this was a lie because Microsoft do this online via Webmaster Tools.

When I questioned him further I said it was on “behalf” of Microsoft. Again, this is a lie. Although Infoserve have 4 members of staff who are accredited by Bing for advertising, they are neither endorsed, approved by, or agents of, Microsoft.

They are calling to get details of people at the top of your company in a bid to sell them services, probably Pay Per Click.