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Nuisance callers impersonating the TPS are a 'scourge on consumers'

Thursday, November 3rd 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Rogue traders who impersonate the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) are a “scourge on consumers”, a direct marketing expert has said.

John Mitchison of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) said registering with the TPS, which adds your number to the UK’s official ‘do not call’ list, is free.

Anyone asking for payment for such a service should not be trusted, he said.

Earlier this week, Giles Ward-Best of Bournemouth was jailed for five years after selling hundreds of dodgy call blocking devices while impersonating the TPS.

He was also given a 10-year ban on being a company director after being found guilty of two counts of fraudulent trading following a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Ward-Best, 43, of Firbank Road, sold call blocker devices while trading as Telecom Protection Service Ltd, Call Barring UK and other company names.

The companies claimed they would compile ‘do not call’ lists that would be sent to direct marketing companies and would report any companies flouting this list to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

But consumers who bought the devices found they were not compatible with their phone, stopped their phone and internet connections from working. When calls could be received, no nuisance calls were stopped.

They were also unable to return the devices or cancel within the cancellation period.

A flood of complaints between 2013 and 2015 sparked an investigation by Trading Standards, which found that over the course of the scam Ward-Best had taken £861,153 from consumers over two years.

'A scammer and a fraudster'

In March 2015 the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team South West executed a warrant at Ward-Best’s business premises alongside Dorset Police.

They seized documentation including telesales scripts, complaint letters and refund forms from debit card processing companies.

The ICO carried out its own investigation into Ward-Best’s activities. It confirmed it never received any reports from his companies and fined him £80,000.

Sentencing Ward-Best, Judge Jonathan Fuller QC told him: “You were just another scammer using carefully crafted lies. Scripts were riddled with falsehoods and misleading information.

“You exploited those you promised to protect from exploitation. You deserve to be called a scammer and a fraudster.”

Mr Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the DMA, told Cable.co.uk: “Rogue businesses impersonating the TPS are a scourge on consumers that the DMA and Ofcom takes very seriously.

“In this case, we worked closely with the NTS to ensure Ward-Best was brought to justice as a deterrent to any other scammers out there.

“Registering with the Telephone Preference Service will always be free for consumers and so anyone claiming any sort of payment for this service should not be trusted.

“If you receive one of these calls, please report it so that we can ensure that stamp out this type of scam for good.”

Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Ward-Best deliberately misled hundreds of people – many of them in vulnerable situations – leaving them out of pocket and distressed.

“I urge everyone to check references and credentials before paying out any money and if you are in any doubt, contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.”

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