Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
R.H. writes: My wife and I run a small bed-and-breakfast in Devon, and we were contacted by UK Business Profiles to list our website in its online database so searchers would find us.
As far as we were aware, this was an annual contract, though we have never received contract details. We were always contacted by phone to renew, and we have been trying to cancel this.
The company phones after already charging our card. We paid last September, yet it charged us again in March and took another £479 in May.
Rip-off: Mr H was charged £479 to list his Devon B&B in the online database
Tony Hetherington replies: It is easy for small businesses to be taken in by directory firms. When you looked at the website at ukbusinessprofiles.com, you saw listings for big outfits including Royal Mail, the Post Office and Costa Coffee, but the signs are that these were bait aimed at luring you into taking a listing yourself.
The Post Office told you it was not a customer of the firm, and when you checked again all three big names had vanished from the website.
I asked UK Business Profiles to comment on what you told me, and within days the company itself called you to say there had been ‘confusion’.
You previously had a different address and this may have led to you being charged for both. A refund has now been made to your card.
But there are bigger questions here than just a clerical error. The real name of the company behind the website is BHP Global Limited.
It uses two addresses, one in Wimbledon in South West London and the other in Blackburn in Lancashire. Both belong to firms that take in mail for anyone who pays.
There was no real sign of the website and its bosses in London, but I traced director Daniel Heald to Blackburn where he lives, and his colleague Paul Brown is not far away in Clitheroe. I also traced records of a couple of County Court Judgments against Heald, including one last year for £2,334.
I asked both men to comment, and in a statement from their company they told me: ‘We had some initial difficulties in contacting Mr H after receiving a letter from him’ – not much of an advertisement for their own directory service.
But this does raise the very basic question of what use their directory service might be to anyone. It could only ever be any use if the directory itself was widely advertised to the public, but when I asked this question, Heald and Brown failed to give any answer.
So, I gave their website a test drive. I searched for an electrician in Birmingham, Glasgow, Dundee, or Cardiff. Back came the answer: ‘There are no results for your search.’
How about plumbers in Cardiff, Newcastle, Exeter, or Birmingham? Again, Heald and Brown have none. I even tried for a shoe repairer in Manchester, Liverpool, Swansea, or Edinburgh. Again, none.
Why should anyone be expected to pay hundreds of pounds for a listing in a directory which fails to tell the public it exists, and which is so poor that it has no record of basic services in big cities? The answer, of course, is that nobody should pay.
Why is my Amazon refund so slow?
T.K. writes: I needed to return two computers to Amazon and was told both would be collected, which they were.
I was told my refund of £480 was in hand, but a week later I was asked for the name of the driver who collected the computers.
Now I have heard nothing more.
Missing money: T.K. is still waiting for his refund from Amazon after returning two computers
Tony Hetherington replies: You had a genuine reason to return the computers. They had graphics which would not connect to your smart TV, nor would they upgrade to Windows 11. Amazon accepted what you said and raised no problems about taking back the computers.
I asked Amazon to look into what had happened to your refund, and a few days later you were told it was on its way. But Amazon has refused to say why you were kept waiting for months.
A spokesman seemed to think I was some sort of debt collector. I asked repeatedly whether Amazon customers who return goods should ask for the driver’s proof of identity.
Amazon refuses to say. Customers should be warned, and perhaps take a picture of the driver or the licence plate of the van.
Fears over friend’s £100,000 will
Mrs S.V. writes: I am concerned about the handling of my friend Annie’s will.
She died in March 2020 and there was an interim payment to beneficiaries in March 2021, but nothing since, despite my writing to the solicitors.
No response: Mrs S.V. is concerned about the handling of her friend’s will
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me that shortly before she died, your friend said she had almost £100,000.
Her will provided for one bequest of £1,000, with everything else to be shared between you and three other beneficiaries.
The payments made in March last year by Brian Mackenow, the Sunderland solicitor handling the estate, totalled £41,000, and he told you he hoped to pay the rest a month later.
I asked Mackenow what had gone wrong. He told me there was a mistake in the date of death shown in the Grant of Probate, and this had to be corrected to satisfy NS&I.
He also blamed ‘a surge in work’ and staff issues. None of this seems to account for a delay of more than a year, but I am glad to say that you have now been sent a cheque for £9,227 together with accounts showing how much was in the estate and how it has been distributed.
We’re watching you
In charge: James Scotney
A month ago we revealed that Town & Country Law Limited, which holds a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority as a credit broker, is run by James Scotney, who has a prison record for dealing in Class-A drugs.
And we reported former directors of the company are awaiting trial on fraud-related charges linked to the company.
Now the Lincoln-based business, which also sells services such as drafting wills and other legal documents, has asked the FCA to withdraw its licence.
A spokesman for the regulator said: ‘The firm has applied to cancel its authorisation. Once the cancellation process has finished, the firm and Mr Scotney will no longer be able to offer regulated financial services. We are still looking into the circumstances surrounding the disclosure of Mr Scotney’s conviction.’
Applicants for FCA approval must declare any criminal convictions, and it is unclear whether Scotney, left, concealed his prison record or declared it but was nevertheless allowed to be the sole director of Town & Country Law.
The FCA may also be investigating suggestions that although Scotney is the only named boss of the business, there might also be a shadow director who is not approved by the regulator.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.