We are pleased with the outcome of a case at Leeds Crown Court in which the defendant, Richard Howard, has been found guilty of breaking consumer protection law following an investigation by National Trading Standards. He has been handed a one year suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £200,000 within 28 days.
Mr Howard, who changed his name to George Orwell during the investigation, ran three websites through his company, UK Services and Support Limited, which claimed to offer additional benefits to consumers when applying for a UK passport. The ASA formally investigated complaints about one of his websites, UK Passport Offices, in 2015. We found the website misleadingly implied that it was the official website for Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) and that it did not make clear that the fee charged by the advertiser was a service charge only, with an additional fee payable to HMPO to obtain a passport.
In reality the services he provided were of little or no value. Following the investigation by National Trading Standards and the court case, it was judged consumers would not have paid for these services had they not been misled or deceived into doing so. UK consumers were conned into handing over approximately £1.6m to UK Services and Support Ltd for their passports.