Ten months after it was fined by the Claims Management Regulator at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), a claims management company (CMC) has now been stripped of its authorisation altogether. MoJ reports on enforcement action it takes never give specific details of a company’s actions, and simply list the sections of its rulebook that have been breached, but press reports say that Complete Claim Solutions (CCS) has been encouraging clients to exaggerate the injuries they suffered in car accidents.
Tom Murray, a senior salesman at CCS, was caught in a Brighton pub telling an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times newspaper:
“They’re breaking the law by signing a document. But if they want that £2,000, they’ll lie. The lie is the buyer’s. And that’s the business what we’re in.”
The undercover reporter obtained a job with the company and wrote of how new recruits were encouraged to coach claimants – for example a recording was played in a training session of how an 80 year old woman was persuaded to make a claim despite initially telling the CCS representative that she had not been hurt in the accident.
Company trainer Jeff Kelly was reported to have told the reporter and the other trainees:
“If they say I’m not interested, say, ‘Well, would you do a tax rebate? It’s just like doing a tax rebate, really, apart from you have to lie and say that you’re injured.’”
The company still used the Complete Claim Solutions trading name, but is now officially known as Stanley Financial Holdings Limited. In cancelling the company’s authorisation in August 2016, the MoJ said the company had breached Client Specific Rule 1b and 1c of the Conduct of Authorised Persons Rules. These require companies to ensure that their service meets the needs of the client, and that all information given to clients is clear, transparent, fair and not misleading.
The Brighton-based company was fined £91,845 in October 2015 for making unsolicited marketing calls to individuals registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Like many CMCs, it unsuccessfully attempted at the time to defend its actions by saying that the leads had been obtained from a third party, when in fact the authorised company is responsible for ensuring that all consumers it contacts have indeed consented to receiving the communication. The company’s actions also risked putting any law firms it introduced customers to in breach of the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority Code of Conduct – here it is not sufficient simply to ensure that individuals are TPS-registered, and if leads are to be referred to solicitors then the recipients must have explicitly consented to receiving the call.
In an appeal to The First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) – Claims Management Services, CCS acknowledged it had contacted TPS-registered consumers on occasions. However, it also said that the number of calls which breached regulatory requirements were very small when compared to the total number of marketing calls made by the company, and thus rejected suggestions that their actions ‘indicate a wider systemic problem’, as the MoJ had suggested.
In rejecting the appeal the Tribunal commented that the company’s breaches lasted for a period of two years, and that they had thus had ample time to remedy the situation.