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.
This scam is nothing more than a modern version of a business directory scam which Action Fraud have detailed in the past.
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. I have always made it very clear to Direct Publisher that I won’t be paying a penny and to date I never have. Strangely, they’ve stopped contacting me completely but continued to pursue hundreds of victims (see the comments below) with all types of legal threats.
What to do if they demand payment
Quite simple – don’t pay it. It’s a blatant scam.
In June 2017, some victims of the scam began to receive letter and emails from people claiming to be legal representatives of Direct Publisher. The emails come from email@example.com and threaten court action. There is no name of the law firm on the email, which immediately looks suspicious.
You would have thought that if Direct Publisher had such a firm legal case that they would have taken the matter to court months ago, especially as they have given so many victims a final demand on numerous occasions.
Another thing I find suspicious about these emails is that the legal-recovery.com has no website and the domain is hidden for privacy on the WhoIs database. Why would a genuine legal firm want to hide their details from the public domain?
Direct Publisher use Bullying tactics
In my opinion, these scammers are nothing more than bullies who attempt to apply pressure using various guises. They prey on small business owners and bully. They use poorly written letters and attempt to make themselves look official.
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).
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.
I had previously advised people to report the scam to action fraud, but the reality is that they don’t do anything at all.
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
What to do next if Direct Publisher threaten you:
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 threats
- do report them to action fraud
Where they are based
Many people are receiving an email from the scammers saying that the website has been moved from com-reg.com to comm-reg.com. The registered person of the com-reg.com and comm-reg.com domains has now been revealed and listed on Whois as:
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!
Previous threat letters
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
“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.
Customer Support Dept.
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.
Customer Support Dept.
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.”
Update – 21/06/2016
Today we received a “PAYMENT NOTICE” from Commercial Register scam HQ. I’ve ignored it.
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:
Time for you to take this to court. We’re not paying.
I look forward to hearing from your solicitors in due course.
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.”
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 filed 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!
As of 27/06/2017 I have never received any court letter. I’ve never been taken to court, seen a bailiff or anything else that this company threatened to do 8 months ago. This all goes to confirm that this is a scam set up by people who have absolutely no intention of actually commencing legal proceedings because they know they’ll never win a case.
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).
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