Should Allay Claims have their license revoked?
This week, the Legal Beagles website reported on the case of one of their members who had successfully defended a claim against the CMC, Allay Claims. The case was brought by Allay who claimed the defendant had electronically signed a Letter of Authority and Terms of Engagement after responding to a 'Free PPI Check' advert on Facebook, when the defendant did not in fact sign anything. In this case the defendant filled out the form on the advert and then received Letters of Authority and a contract in the post to sign & return. In the event she decided not to and eventually made the PPI claims herself. Somehow Allay were made aware by the bank that she had successfully made the claims and invoiced her for £1600. In the judgment, below, the District Judge held the view that not only did the defendant not sign a contract as Allay had bogusly claimed, had she done so it would have been invalid in any event due to the absence of a cancellation form or a copy of the contract in a durable medium as required by distance selling regulations.
As the Legal Beagles website states, this judgment also raises serious questions about the FCA’s regulation of Allay Claims. In August 2019, the regulator had placed requirements on Allay by temporarily banning the CMC from using online promotions yet the FCA still granted full authorisation to Allay in February 2020.
The word bubble at the top of the page uses words left by Trust Pilot reviewers to describe Allay and its conduct and have been left by consumers since February 2020 to present day. Several of these reviews (extracts shown below) refer to the use of fraudulent signatures by Allay while others describe a slew of nuisance calls.
"I received a copy of the Letter of Authority from Allay, and it has a forged signature on it! This signature is clearly hand-written, yet it is not my Mothers! Worse still - the building society accepted this! I'm taking this higher, as although Allay agreed to call off the bailiffs, forgery is still a crime in this country"... – 17th March 2020
"They have used my data to go ahead and claimed without my permission!!" – 27th March 2020
"They produce a form I so say signed. Not my signature. I didn’t sign. – 17th April 2020
"..i have NEVER signed anything nor authorised these people to act for me so why do they think i should give them anything." – 26th April 2020
“The alleged signature date was in a 10 day period when I was away from home and would not have had access to forms anyway.” – 27th April 2020
"I phoned Allay ( sounds like I was lucky to get them to answer the phone) who sent me a copy of the letter of authority they said I had signed. Only.... it wasn t my signature and I had been on holiday abroad on the date they said I signed it!!!" – 12th June 2020
"These cowboys said thay have my signature regarding a clam. Asked for proof and hey, not my signature and the date is in other hand writing" – 20th July 2020
"I have no received notification that they have been acting on my behalf and that I digitally signed something, which is a complete lie." – 17th August 2020
" I sent them a detailed email outlining my dispute and they sent me a FORGED "Letter of Authority" claiming I'd signed it. It was so obvious that they had obtained my signature, and cut and pasted it onto the FAKE letter." – 5th September 2020
"They contacted my father stating that he had made a claim through them on the 10th june last year, even sent us the letter of authorization which he supposedly signed, dated the 10th june. Problem is My father died on the 9th June, so he couldnt of made any claim!" – 10th September 2020
"this scam of a company claims that I signed an electronic signature approving them to go ahead on my behalf, however they still proceeded to send me documentation for me to wet sign, they are just fraudsters and pester you day in day out, lets see who wins, I know I didn't sign anything and if they can provide me with a wet signature which is required by FCA under section 2.1.11 G (2) of the FCA claims management policy statement, then I will act within the law. But I am not being duped." – 14th September 2020
In their replies’, Allay claim they hold an electronic and paper trail for every authorisation and provide assurances that “we do not fraudulently make claims” – a statement which appears contrary to the judge’s ruling above.
Several of the customer reviews also refer to constant ‘harrassment’ by text messages and phone calls and often state they are reporting Allay to a police authority or regulator such as the FCA, FOS, and the ICO. This is nothing new as tweets on Twitter (and Google reviews) show this was an issue back in July 2019.
Also at this time, a post was placed on the Legal Beagles website which pointed to the use of a fraudulent signature:-
It is abundantly clear that the FCA were aware of issues concerning Allay Claims as they imposed requirements on the CMC the same (August 2019) which limited their financial promotions on posts by Angie’s Advice and Sarah’s Money Advice which were on social media.
However the CMC continued to receive attention and in November 2019, an unhappy consumer posted on the MSE website regarding the false use of his wife’s signature:
Complaints data published by FOS revealed that Allay was the most complained about CMC in the July - December 2019 quarter, yet Allay Claims (and its 27 trading names) continued to apply to the FCA for full authorisation and the regulator granted this in February 2020.
The FCA register shows the approval of Allays directors – Andrew Stokoe and Stuart Phillipson Bell, with the latter being responsible for Compliance Oversight. Mr Bell was also the director of former CMC, Real Time Money Ltd and is a current director of Citizens Advice Gateshead.
Part of the FCA’s authorisation process requires the to meet the Threshold Conditions which include the following Suitability Requirements:-
· Conducts or will conduct its business with integrity & in compliance with proper standards
· Has or will have a competent and prudent management
· Can demonstrate that it conducts or will conduct its affairs with due skill, care and diligence
A few weeks after authorisation was granted, a Trust Pilot review subsequently appeared which accused the firm of ‘condoning dishonestly’
Further explanation of this is warranted as back in December 2009, a separate CMC director, Shaun Pemberton set up Connected Claims Ltd which involved “gaining and securing contracts/accounts with Claims Management Companies to process OFT credit card charges claims inhouse for existing clients”. He remained until October 2010 when he was replaced by Rahul Dev Sharma.
The pair had also set up Crystal Clear Financial Services Ltd together on 2nd June 2010 although Pemberton resigned 6 months later.
Rahul Dev Sharma remained a director of the CMC, Connected Claims Ltd who in 2013 were referenced on the Legal Beagles Forum as cold calling regarding PPI claims In 2017 Sharma sold the firm to Allay Claims (who renamed it AirFair Copensation Ltd), presumably because he had become the third director of the debt management company Debt Connect (UK) Ltd to be disqualified.
An investigation by the Insolvency Service found that Mr Sharma caused funds totalling £42,920 to be transferred to the company’s current account, of which at least £25,929 was paid to another company controlled by Rahul Sharma, and individuals connected to him. Mr Sharma’s nine-year disqualification commenced on 3 July 2017 and will end in July 2026.
Returning to Allay Claims, the CMC may no longer hold a Twitter account, but it still continues to attract negative comments regarding questionable tactics;
Similar experiences are also documented on Facebook in May 2020:-
According to the FCA once they authorise a firm they “will keep checking to make sure the firm is meeting the standards we require and complying with our rules.”.
Following the recent court case, Legal Beagles have provided the regulator with the Judges decision and have invited them to revisit their decision regarding the authorisation of Allay Claims. We wholeheartedly concur and would ask them to review any other CMC’s who have been accused of using fraudulent documentation.
 https://legalbeagles.info/forums/forum/money-debt/reclaiming/claims-management-companies/1545952-allay-lose-in-court  https://cmc.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/data-insight/cmc-half-yearly-data  https://legalbeagles.info/forums/forum/money-debt/reclaiming/claims-management-companies/39906-connected-claims-cmc-cold-calling  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ban-for-further-director-of-manchester-financial-advisory-business