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Exposed: file-sharing lawyers collect fines using 'dormant' company

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By Nicole Kobie and Barry Collins

Posted on 19 Jan 2011 at 11:49

Controversial legal firm ACS Law is discreetly using another company to collect payments from alleged file-sharers.

ACS Law has long acted on behalf of copyright holders, demanding hundreds of pounds from people accused of file-sharing or threatening them with the prospect of court action.

The law firm is currently being investigated by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, following accusations by consumer watchdog Which? that it had “bullied” people into making payments for infringements that they didn’t commit.

ACS Law was in court earlier this week, attempting to have 27 cases of alleged file-sharing dropped.

However, the judge refused to drop all but one of the cases, giving the legal teams of the defendants the chance to fight for punitive damages from rights holder MediaCAT – which has accused the defendants of illegally downloading pornographic films.

Our client has instructed agents, GCB Limited, to correspond with you directly... in place of ACS Law solicitors

However, it has now emerged that ACS Law has been sending out letters to alleged file-sharers since the middle of December, requesting that out-of-court settlements of £475 are sent to another company, called GCB Limited.

“In order to allow us to focus on the issuing of proceedings, our client has instructed agents, GCB Limited, to correspond with you directly in relation to the above [file-sharing] matter in place of ACS Law solicitors,” the letter states.

The letter lists GCB’s registered office as that of Kent-based chartered accountants McLean Reid, who claim they have nothing to do with GCB.

A statement on the McLean website reads: “GCB Limited was formed by us and appears to be being misused by some third party. We are taking urgent steps to ensure that our name is not in any way abused in this connection.”

When PC Pro spoke to McLean Reid partner John Champion, he told us that GCB had been registered at that address on behalf of one his clients, David Fisher.

Champion said that Fisher had lent his dormant company to an associate, who had been collecting the file-sharing money without his knowledge. “He just decided to help a friend out,” Champion said. “He wanted a dormant company, and he said ‘Oh I’ve got one that’s not doing anything, you can have that’.”

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User comments

I know a Learning Manager who was forced to leave the school after he did a 'high five' with a student. And yet, solicitors whose only interest is to abuse the law for their own interest can carry on doing so for years.

It's not that I believe anything can change. It's actually only a little rant so, keep going, nothing to see here.

By Josefov on 19 Jan 2011

“I know Dave Fisher is put down as a director [of GCB], [but] this activity was done without him knowing what activity was happening,”

So that should pretty much ensure he never gets a Directorship ever again. Nothing will happen though.

When will this appalling behaviour stop? It almost appears to be a confidence trick to extort money. Is it?

By colsmith on 19 Jan 2011

As long as laws are uplheld by lawyers..

..The Pigs will continue to be more equal than the rest of us.

By cheysuli on 19 Jan 2011

Good reporting from Nicole Kobie and Barry Collins

Well done. This is the kind of quality journalism that seems to be unknown to all but a few of the national papers. Nice to see it here.

By c_webb31 on 19 Jan 2011

419

This whole thing is sounding more like some sort of e-mail scam at every turn, except these chaps are using the postal service instead.

@c_webb31 - Seconded

By greemble on 19 Jan 2011

Great Investigating Journalism

These people are all crooks dressed up as Lawyers and Accountant. They need to be investigated, prosecuted, locked up and banned from being able to carry out these types of activities.

By Manuel on 19 Jan 2011

Yes, yes, yes?

In November last year, in Andrew Crossley's interview with the Daily Telegraph, the journalist highlighted a lie about being strapped for cash that Crossley told him during interview: http://bit.ly/eeqjy9

Is it possible, just possible, that when Crossley is saying "No, no, no" about a connection between ACS and GCB, that the truth would be "Yes, yes, yes"?

By revsorg on 19 Jan 2011

The police?

Surely when GCB started issuing letters the police should have started investigating?

By revsorg on 19 Jan 2011

The end.

After reading through many, many online pages about these "lads", one thing does transpire (two actually) - one is that they will not last long and two is that they will set a legal precedent in copyright law bullying. We will see them stripped from their licence and, hopefully, charged with fraud and larceny. Fabulous article, btw.

By PSilva on 19 Jan 2011

Shouldn't They Lose Their Ability to Practise Law?

If these allegations are substantially true, I would certainly hope this falls into the category of gross professional misconduct, and all concerned should be barred from practising law.

These kind of sharp practises are worse than the alleged piracy of copyrighted material. As they are using legal trappery to make them look legitimate.

By Penfolduk01 on 20 Jan 2011

Why ACS: Law will never take anyone to court

ACS: Law are using invoices designed to scare the wits out of recipients to collect the £475. BT were forced to hand over around 20,000 records to them because of the structure of the Digital Economy Acct 2010. Which is why BT has sought a review of the Act.

But it is hugely more profitable and time effective to scare 100 people than take a single case to court, so they never have and won't. BT has assertively questioned this practice.

The way to fight this extortion (because that is what it is) is to download The Speculative Invoicing Handbook, written especially to help recipients fight this practice by tieing them down in administration so they stop pursuing you.

And lastly, whilst downloaded films and music shopuld be paid for, it is the deficiencies in the Act that let extortionists like ACS: Law practice.

The way to stop ACS: Law

By chrisclarkgold on 20 Jan 2011

Digital Economy Act 2010

Hey chrisclarkgold - the Digital Economy Act 2010 was not in place when Chief Master Winegarten granted the NPOs that enabled ACS:Law to get user data from the ISPs. Remember ACS only pursued NPOs with ISPs who agreed not to contest the application for data. People should be questioning why their ISPs were complicit in this whole scandal.

Of the very many questions the ACS:Law debacle raises, Judge Birss QC has questioned whether the people who claim they had the right to take people to court for copyright infringement actually had this right. He's now looking into their licensing and copyright agreements. If Chief Master Winegarten had asked these questions when the NPOs were raised, would we be in this position now?

Of course I realise it's easy to be knowledgable with hindsight, but we should never have been in a position where tens of thousands of people, maybe a hundred thousand people, were sent letters that demand money with menaces with the apparent support of the courts and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

By revsorg on 20 Jan 2011

Fraud...Misrepresentation?

Surely this comes under the auspices of the Post Office, crimes committed using the postal service? Or perhaps Financial services mis-representation? And lets not forget good old Customs after all services attract VAT!!!! Legally downloaded or otherwise!

By willyw97uk on 20 Jan 2011

Great Journalism

Thank you for your informed article and the interesting comments above – well worth my annual PC Pro subscription!
Well done Nicole Kobie and Barry Collins, please, please, please do not let go of the story. We need this sort of good, old fashioned, journalism to expose the rot in corporate society.

By TonyStockman on 20 Jan 2011

Blackmail/Perverting the Course of Justice

Law 101

Is it Blackmail? Pay us a fee and we won't prosecute.

Or is it "perverting the course of justice"? Under natural law, the accused is entitled to a fair trial. What the "lawyers" have said is pay us and we'll make the legal system go away.

These "Lawyers" should know better and should have the book thrown at every one of them.

By dgrove on 20 Jan 2011

Crime against humanity

The jounalists should be congratulated on not letting this scum think the heat is off. I hope the CLSA instead of slapping acs:laws wrist it removes HIS Licence.

By cretep on 21 Jan 2011

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