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UK PPI form fillers continue to spam consumers

BIScom Subsection: 
Editorial Staff

One would think that, after the revelation that more than GBP1,000 million had been collected by form fillers providing entirely unnecessary services for those claiming PPI refunds, the market would have died. Maybe you'd have thought that the action against those pretending to be official websites would have discouraged others from doing something similar. And, of course, there's law that spamming individuals is a crime. Welcome to Magnetise Media Ltd which says it's registered by the Claims Management Regulator and listed by the Ministry of Justice. Hopefully Trading Standards and the Information Commissioner have files, too.

The PPI claims industry was created to take the opportunity to convince consumers that, if they wanted to make claims that their personal protection insurance sold by their bank was "mis-sold," they needed help with the process. Initially, there may have been some merit in that but banks soon became co-operative and made the process quick and simple. There was, they reasoned after a dressing down by the regulator and by the government, no point in trying to defend the indefensible and the basic principle was that, if a consumer had bought PPI, there would be a presumption that it had been mis-sold. Once that happened, there was no reason for anyone to use a claims intermediary.

But the industry, with sharp suited young men and business names that sounded like lawyers filled the daytime and late night tv advertising slots, supposedly candid comments from elderly couples in their cardigans and their 1950s furniture spoke directly to the most vulnerable and pressurised message told people they should make their claims urgently and that to do so they should call the number on the screen.

The scandal over the amount of money the claims companies were taking from settlements blew over quickly: the country moved onto more pressing matters, like the cast of TV soap operas cavorting in swimwear and the claims people went back to their advertising.

So, here's the pitch that has arrived in the mailbox of one of our team. The company, Magnetise Media Limited says it's "regulated by the Claims Management Regulator in respect of regulated claims management activities. Our authorisation number is CRM31508 and our registration is
recorded on the Ministry of Justice site www.gov.uk/moj/cmr." It operates under the trading name "Consumer Refunds" and at the top of its pitch it says "This offer is brought to you by: UK Consumer Notices." For clarity, this is not an official UK government service.

But Consumer Refunds is a referral service. It says "- Our service is totally FREE and we're independent."

Actually, it's not free. What happens is that Consumer Refunds has an on-line form that it says takes 30 seconds to complete. Once it has that, it forwards the enquiry to another company which will take on claims on a no-win, no-fee basis. Maybe. In fact, "While these firms can provide you with their expert service on a "No Win No Fee" basis, a Fee may be payable if you decide to cancel a contract with them after the 14 day cooling off period." Also, in similar cases, the referrer receives a percentage of the fee that the other company collects.

It's not independent: it simply cannot be. The referral will be made only to companies with which the referrer has an arrangement for compensation. It is, therefore, not independent of influence as to choice of companies and, if it were truly independent, the advice would be to make the application direct to the bank. It operates a panel, as evidenced by its own statement "ConsumerRefunds is a free, independent service that hand-picks claims management
firms and only works with leading UK-based experts in PPI claim management."

The e-mail creates unecessary pressure: in its subject line it says "Aug 2019: The end for mis-sold PPI. You must claim before the deadline" Filing a claim direct with someone's own bank takes them a few minutes and, if they really need help, branch staff are trained to provide it at no cost.

PPI is, by definition, a consumer product. Therefore direct e-mail promoting the PPI Claims Service is, equally by definition, not a business to business communication, no matter what address is used. It follows, then, that the sending of this unsolicited mail is a breach of the UK's law on spam. It's not new law: see this (https://www.theregister.co.uk/...) from The Register in 2003, providing a very clear explanation of what's what.

The spam is distributed from a domain "ownapt.org" which seemingly has no qualifications to be regarded as a .org.

The danger is that vulnerable people (the desperate, the elderly, the uneducated) will fall for this. The ICO might be a bit busy with facebook just now, but it should shut down the site hosting the response links in very short order.