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Nuisance call firm linked to web of call centre woes

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Ammanford call centre boss: Richard Jones

A WEST WALES based company has been fined for making nuisance calls just a week after another was punished for the same offence. This has taken place as a Herald investigation has revealed that many companies working in the telesales industry in west Wales are connected by common directors or shareholders.

Miss-sold Products UK​ ​had a call centre in Ammanford where they employed up to 15 call centre agents. Those agents made 75 million nuisance calls in just four months – between November 2015 and March 2016 – most of which were from an automated dialler.

Now the company, which had its registered office in a terraced house in Milford Haven at the time, has been fined £350,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). That is a registered address shared by several other call centre type companies.

Last week Port Talbot-based Barrington Claims Ltd was also fined – this time £250,000 – after making more than 15 million automated PPI calls, between February and May 2016. That company, which is not connected to Miss-Sold, had failed to ensure automated marketing calls were sent to individuals who had consented to receive marketing.

Miss-Sold Products UK Ltd was a Payment Protection Insurance reclaims specialist. Charging customers they sold to an upfront fee, promising they would get more back later once their PPI claims would be settled. The company had previously been known as Penguin Claims Limited until November 2015.

The current director of the company is listed as Douglas Andrew Albury. His address is given as 83 Dulcie Street, Manchester. However a quick check found that this was as copy shop offering mail redirection services. Albury over recent years has been linked to over 37 limited companies. They include several other call centre based business still trading in Ammanford and Carmarthen – his contact address differs depending on which company his is connected with – but his date of birth and middle name show it is the same man. Companies House shows he also has a west Wales address in Neath.

Companies he controls include Your Money Rights Ltd​,​ which is currently trading, and another​,​ Business Advice Bureau UK Ltd​,​ was struck off the register at Companies House as recently as Wednesday (Jan 17).

MILLIONS IN DEPOSITS LOST

Other now dissolved firms that he has been involved with in locally include Scarlet Protect Limited – a reincarnation of a Carmarthenshire based PPI firm which ripped the general public off for millions of pounds.

Albury was also a director of its forerunner, Scarlet Marketing Services Limited – again a PPI reclaim firm – which employed, according to a former member of staff, around 60 call centre staff in offices at King Street Carmarthen. That company was put into voluntary liquidation on December 8, 2016​,​ with almost £5.7m of debts​,​ including over £70k in unpaid fines, £88k owing to HMRC and over £5,000,000 in deposits owing to members of the public.

Your Money Rights Ltd – also known as U Legal – is another firm he was listed as a director of. That firm is still trading

Miss-sold Products UK Ltd made its latest, mostly automated​,​ marketing calls between November 16, 2015, and March 7, 2016. The calls contained recorded messages, primarily promoting PPI compensation claims, but the company did not have the recipients’ consent for making marketing calls, which is against the law.

It also broke the law, the ICO ruled, by failing to identify the organisation making the calls, while it used so-called ‘added value’ numbers that generate revenue when an individual calls the number, which is then apportioned and passed to associated companies and the network carrier.

OVER 100 COMPLAINTS

The ICO received 146 complaints from the public about Miss-sold Products. Some people were called on multiple occasions. Others said they were unable to opt out of receiving the calls. Some expressed further distress as they were concerned that calls late at night may have been from family members or those to whom they provided care.

Albury as director of Miss-sold – which had its registered office at 10A North Road, Milford Haven before it was moved in 2017 to Darlington, County Durham – had applied to strike the firm off the Companies House register but the ICO has blocked the move pending enforcement action.

10A North Road is not an official address, but number 10 is owned by local businessman Adrian Jenkins who was also an officer of the now defunct Business Advice Bureau UK Ltd

A further company of which Albury was a director recently moved its registered office from that Darlington address to the Dulcie Street address in Manchester. Another key player in Miss-Sold was Richard Jones – he has resigned his directorship but is still actively involved in other call centre related businesses in Carmarthenshire.

This is to allow all options to be considered for recovery of the penalty, and for the actions of the director in running the company to be fully scrutinised.

ICO Enforcement Group Manager Andy Curry said: “This company blatantly ignored the laws on telephone marketing, making a huge volume of intrusive calls over a short period of time and without any apparent attempt to ensure they had the consent of the people they were harassing.

“The ICO will come down hard on rogue operators who want to treat the law and the UK public with contempt. We hope the Government will bring forward plans to introduce personal liability for directors as a matter of urgency, to stop them from escaping punishment after profiting from nuisance calls and texts.

“In the absence of a change in the law, the ICO will continue to face challenges in the recovery of penalties, and rogue directors will think they can get away with causing nuisance to members of the public.”

Health

Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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Tenby’s famous walrus ‘Wally’ has been spotted again

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TENBY’S most famous marine animal has been spotted again after fears she had been scared away.

Wally was spotted on Friday evening by the seaside town’s Lifeboat station.

Thought to be a two-year-old male, the walrus’s return comes after it was feared she had been disturbed by people flocking to catch a glimpse of her and “getting too close”

The animal has attracted hundreds of people to the seaside town now that the travel restrictions with Wales have been lifted to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Wally was last seen on Monday, but  members of the public were warned it was in the animal’s “best interests” to be “left alone” as much as possible and they were urged to “avoid the temptation to get near and disturb” her.

A joint statement was issued by the RSPCA, Tenby harbour master Chris Salisbury, Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain Phil John, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, Natural Resources Wales and CSIP Marine Environmental Rescue said that they were concerned to hear that people had tried to get close by using personal watercraft or paddle and surfboards.

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Police plan to deter badly behaved youths from gathering in Tenby

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POLICE in Tenby responded to community concerns over antisocial behaviour and groups of between 15-20 youths gathering and clashing over the Easter bank holiday weekend. They moved the youths on, seized alcohol from them and stopped matters escalating when there were clashes between the groups. And they have a clear message ahead of this weekend – there will be extra police patrols and presence in Tenby, including on the trains, so this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers used powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Act to disperse groups of youngsters meeting to drink alcohol in and around Tenby, many of whom had travelled by train to the area to meet up.

Based on these scenes from last weekend, plans are in place as part of a joint operation with Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers and British Transport Police, to address and prevent any further gatherings.

A Section 34 Order is in place covering Tenby, which allows officers to move people out of the area and prevent them from returning for up to 48 hours.

Sergeant Stuart Wheeler said: “Following last weekend we had some concern from the community of Tenby, due to antisocial behaviour related to the groups of youths from Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Tenby, and subsequently those groups clashing. Alcohol consumption by these youngsters was a factor.

“Proactive action was taken, and we are keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour this weekend, and have therefore put plans in place. Additional resources have been allocated, which will allow us to respond quickly and prevent matters from escalating.

“Tenby Neighbourhood Policing Team and response officers, will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the area, covering areas known to be popular with youngsters. Pembrokeshire County Council licensing officers will be assisting us in ensuring youngsters can’t buy alcohol in the area by visiting shops and reminding them of the laws around selling alcohol, and if they bring it with them it will be seized. And our colleagues in British Transport Police will be patrolling the train network to prevent problematic groups getting to Tenby by train.”

Police are also appealing to parents and carers to know where their children are, and what they are doing.

Sergeant Wheeler added: “We would like to appeal directly to parents to be aware of where their children are, and prevent them from gathering in large groups. This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby, and we are urging you to be accountable for your children’s actions.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors still. Please do your best to ensure they are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”

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