Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Story so far....

This is my first post onto my blog. I have set this up as a warning to small businesses out there and also would welcome any help or advise you may have for me. I have got stuck into a 87 month contract for a phone system that I wasn't aware I was signing up to. I am faced with paying over £45000 over 87 months, rather than 12 months I thought I was signing up for, and to make it worse the company has disappeared.

Initial Contact by BC Telecom
In July 2008 I was contacted by James Page of BC Telecom who said that this company were working in conjunction with British Telecom and that all telephones needed to be upgraded from analogue to digital in the next 3 years. Having considered his proposal I decided to accept his offer for the very reason that he was able to spread the cost over 12 months. I was told that the Panasonic system in both shops were worth approximately £1200 and together with the intallation charges and the first year's support, was satisified with a total cost of £2400 in both shops plus interest. In addition, I was told that I would need a UPS in the Hertford shop as I had 2 lines. I was told that this had a value of £500 and together with installation and first year's support agreed to a total cost of £1200 including interest. In good faith I signed the agreement he placed before me and when I asked for a copy was told it needed countersigning by the finance company before one was sent. Shortly afterwards I received an 'annual' tax invoice which I took to be verification of the one year contract and thought nothing more of it - one for each of the telephone systems and one for the UPS.

One Year On, A Scam Is Detected....
In July 2009 I was horrified to receive another annual tax invoice from each of the leases. I tried to contact James Page and his number was no longer valid. BC Telecom had disappeared and Clearlink Communications who are listed as the supplier no longer deal with telephone systems. I phoned each of the lease companies, ING, BNP PARIBAS and Siemens Financial Services. Each one of them said I had signed a contract with them for 87 months and each sent me an e-mail with a copy of the contract. Siemens gave me a number of Otelo, which deals with communications complaints, but they only deal with complaints against companies that are members of their services and suprise, suprise, BC Telecom is not one of them. ING said that they I have no evidence to support my claim and there is little further assistance they can offer as my supplier is no longer training. They go on to state that my complain has now been closed.
Since then I have spoken to a solicitor who said that by the letter of the law I am required to pay the remaining amount. I have also spoken to FSB and Business Link who couldn't help me and said the only way out is to prove my signature is fraud. Now, after 15 months I have now stopped paying the leasing companies but as I am not a limited company, my house is at risk if I do not keep up repayments I could take it to court, but the judge may follow by the letter of the law or a take a moral stance, however, I don't know whether to do this as my house and business is at risk.

Other Business Found Who Were Conned......
By chance, I noticed in the local paper, the Comet, that a care home in Stevenage were also hit by the same people and are required to pay a total of £33000 for 27 telephones when they only ordered one. They have stopped paying but ING are threatening to take them to Crown Court for non payment.

There is clearly no concievable reason why anyone would pay £8700 for an uninterruptable power supply which has a value of £500 or £17400 for a phone in the Hertford shop, and £17400 in the WGC, in that shop I have also signed up for a monthly insurance of £19.34 (total £16,82,58) for equipment that is worth a maximum of £1200 for each phone system. Surely organisations such as these leasing companies should have had a system in place for checking the validity of agreements and that alarm bells should have been ringing, or perhaps that is why I have 3 leases with 3 different leasing companies. I additionally wouldn't have signed for 87 months as telephone equipment is out of date very quickly and certainly is not expected to last over 7 years, also I only have 3 years left on my Hertford shop lease at the time of signing the telephone contract and would not to be wanting to pay something like this for a further 4+ years after the business closes. At present I am paying over £500 per month to these companies. I cannot believe that there is no way of getting out of this contract. BC telecom and James Page contacted me, the care home and who knows how many other businesses with the sole intention of duping small businesses out of money. The Stevenage care home which is a charity organisation was also contacted with a person dealing with BC telecom 18 months previously who was then working for a company called Business Telecom. I wondered whether the same people are going into bankrupcy then restarting the business under other names willfully so that they could not be traced so I started to investigate further.

Frustration As No One Seems To Be Able To Help!......
In some ways I felt better when I had spoken to charity care home as before I was extremely embarassed, felt very stupid that I could have fallen for the scam and quite vunerable. The lady at the care home was extremely efficient, very bright and very observant. I wouldn't have wished this on anyone but feel relieved that I wasn't the only one to fall for it.

I contacted Ofcom and they said that they regulate telephone lines etc not equipment and the only option they can advise is to seek independent legal advice. On calling my insurance, I discovered after several phone calls that although I had £50000 legal cover, I was only covered for between £250 and £5000 for contractural issues. I contact both my local MPs, Mark Prisk and Grant Shapps and then started to talk to all my customers, many of whom are local business people. I also contacted the BBC One Show, Watchdog, Daily Mail, Daily Express with no response from them. I also contacted The Sunday Times and had a number of e-mails back from them offering some advice. Which? suggested I contact Consumer Direct. Consumer Direct took details and passed it onto Trading Standards. I also started Twittering about it as I think the more who know about them, the better as it is likely they are still trading somewhere else under a different name. From Twitter, I find the UK Business Forum website and post details of the scam,

In desperation, I post details on my facebook account (JulieNatHealth) and one of my friends finds details about a director of BC Telecom The facebook of one of the directors of BC telecom. (I recognise him from a store visit).

Definitely him because he's engaged to Charlotte Woolley who was the company secretary

He's a fan of this pub; which ties up with his address listed here:

This company could be linked to him: same type of company and products. Found it from this page: which lists him as a contact, there's a phone number.

The registered address for BTS Digital matches a previous address for BC Telecom.

SS11 8YU

The website of the btsdigital is scarily similar to the details I remember from BC Telecom. It looks like they are still trading as a telecom company with a PO Box in Hatfield!

After posting onto UK Business Forum, the next morning, I have contact from a Doctor in Harpenden who also has been scammed by the same people, until then she had only told a few close friends.

Another person from the forum did a bit of searching and found that on searching at Companies House there are 3 separate new companies (each with a telecoms related name) that have sprung up since from the 2 directors and company secretary of BC Telecom Ltd. In particular the 2 directors seem to have a history of dissolved companies.

I then went to the local papers and managed to hit the front pages of both the Hertfordshire Mercury and Welwyn Hatfield Times. From that 3 more businesses have come forward, all with very similar stories. Herts Trading standards are now looking into the case, Norfolk Trading Standards are already investigating Business telecom which was a precursor to BC Telecom. There are also investigations into Shire leasing, the intermediary, which brokered many of these leases, they also brokered around 1,000 leases of telephone equipment supplied by Business Telecom Ltd, whose managing director and two employees have just been charged with conspiracy to defraud. I also have a lease with Shire leasing in my case and they seem to be involved in many others who have come forward. Please see web site under articles about Shire leasing.

On 5th October I received an e-mail from a GP in Essex who also had dealings with BC Telecom. The correspondence was as follows:

JulieI saw the entry beneath on line. I attach a story from GP newspaper (see attachment) and one from Leasing Life (see below) which may be of interest.These people are obviously operating in Essex and Norfolk as well as in your part of the world. Please feel free to give your Trading Standards people my contact details as I have some information which may be of use to them.I’m sure the people responsible are going to end up behind bars - including Mr James Page of BC Telecom.With best wishes Dr John Cormack

Leasing LifeNewsShire-brokered leases linked to fresh fraud allegationsShire Leasing already faces pressure from the collapse of hundreds of leases connected to the suppliers Elumina Iberica, Global Telecoms & Technology and Lifestyle TV Ltd.The intermediary, which brokered many of these leases, also brokered around 1,000 leases of telephone equipment supplied by Business Telecom Ltd, whose managing director and two employees have just been charged with conspiracy to defraud.It is claimed that the trio – Christopher Boughton-Fox, MD of Business Telecom Ltd, Jonathan Parish and Neil Debenham – persuaded people to enter into lease arrangements for the supply of telecommunications systems and accessories by falsely representing that Business Telecom was connected with or the business arm of British Telecom PLC.Shire Leasing brokered around 1,000 leases over a 10-year period with Business Telecom Ltd. Boughton-Fox is alleged to have induced businesses and individuals across East Anglia to sign up to contracts on a false basis between January 2005 and February 2008.The prosecution by Norfolk County Council Trading Standards alleges that lease customers – which, according to trading standard investigators, include schools in Norfolk and neighbouring counties – were told their telephone lines and equipment were about to be made obsolete due to digitisation of the network and had to switch over to the new systems by law.The prosecution is being brought by Norfolk County Council Trading Standards. All three appeared earlier this month for a preliminary hearing and were bailed to appear again on September 18 for a further hearing.Shire Leasing declined to comment.

NewsShire Leasing instructs DLA Piper to defend itselfShire Leasing has instructed one of Britain’s largest law firms to defend itself against multi party claims being brought by customers at the centre of the services for leases scandal.Stewart Plant, a partner at DLA Piper, is leading a team of lawyers now advising Shire, Britain’s largest leasing brokerage, on allegations being levelled against it by a large number of customers of the collapsed supplier Global Telecoms & Technology.The claimants say they are being overcharged on telecoms equipment leases which, it is alleged, they were led to believe by Global include services such as phone line and broadband rentals. ING Lease UK has reassigned to Shire some of these leases after customers – many of whom have joined a nationwide action group called Give Me Back My Money Back Ltd – stopped paying their lease rentals.

(See attached file: GPs angered over practice telephone system charges - article Sept 2009.doc)

BNP Paribas:
On the 6th October 2009 I received a letter saying that BNP is the financier of the equipment. They played no part in the negotiations. Any representation made by the supplier Clearlink Communication is not binding on HFGL Ltd. This is the position in law and an acknowlegment to me to this effect is contained at clause 4 and 5 of the agreement.

It goes on to say that they have spoken to their internal legal team who have advised that any queries I have regarding the equipment or lease peiod agreed should be directed to Shire Leasing the broker and the supplier Clearlink Communications.

The letter also advised me to seek legal advice as non payment of the rentals due to them may lead to legal action against me to recover the debt. It says that the signed agreement makes it quite clear the period of hire and amount of retals and my signed acceptance confirms that I am accepting the equipment, therefore they will not cancel the agreement and refund monies paid.

It states that they remind me that a failure to pay the rentals amount to a repudiatory breach of the agreement. If the rentals remain unpaid then they will have no alternative other than to terminate the agreement and arrange for the equipment to be collected. Thereafter they will provide me with details of the termination sum which must be paid in accordance with clause 10 of the agreement.

It then suggests that I should contact the Financial Ombudsman Service.

On 21st October I received a further letter about arrears in payment. On 23rd October I contacted a customer advisor, Hilary, who asked if I definately wanted to terminate the agreement which I said I did. She said that they would take court action.

28th August 2009: The letter says that I have no evidence to support my claim, there is little further assistance that can be offered as my supplier is no longer trading. The only way in which the contract for finance with ING lease can be cancelled is to settle the finance on the agreement. However, they advise me that in view of the above infomation my complaint has been closed.

14th October 2009: A letter states that whilst they sympathise with concerns I have raised, they refer me back to the above letter which advise me that my contract shows clearly the payments due along with the term. They state that ING lease has paid my supplier based on my signature of the documentation provided and as I have provided no evidence to support my concerns they are unable to escalate my complaint. Therefore they advise me that my complaint remains closed.

8th September 2009: They wrote to me to state that they had been advised by Shire leasing that they have spoken to me regarding the lease, and they the matter is closed due to the contract that I have signed.

10th November 2009: I spoke to an advisor in the debt recovery team. She was adamant that I needed to pay my arrears.

Financial Ombudsman Service:
11th November 2009: I spoke to a member of the above service called Hannah Scott, she said that she would write to Shire leasing on my behalf and within 8 weeks they must respond.


  1. 7th October 2009: I sign a full statement with Hertfordshire Trading Standards via Mark Andrews who is an officer there.

    4th November 2009: I receive a Default Notice served under section 87(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Stating that I am in breach of the payment and to remedy the breach I must make payment of the arrears by 21st November 2009.

    11th November 2009: I phone Citizens Advise Bureau, they said that they cannot help businesses only the general public.

  2. Hi my name is Mrs Powell and I run a small children's Nursery in Hertfordshire - I also fell for this scam, in my case with Business Telecom, I have today received court papers from ING (my original lease was with Shire) these lease companies are big bullies, and this has gone on for some years with lots of telephone companies pulling the same scam, its about time someone investigated them and with fingers cross after the BT court cases trading standard office will do just that !!!!!

  3. my name is Martin Bastow. I am a director of a residential care home. I too was taken in by this scam and have read with interest all that i written here and elsewhere ( such as leasing life)
    I am going to loose around 15k because of this scam , a huge amount for us to offset somehow and also we feel so insulted by the blatent lies and barefaced con.
    My action will be to stop payment to shire leasing based on this following contention (is that the correct term?).....
    We signed agreement with Shire in 2006,
    then in 2007 we wrote to them warning that business telecom was acting illegally , was under investigation from consumer watchdogs and where not honoring their written agreement to repay 7 year leasing charge. (we have a signed document from neil debenham to this effect)
    Also we told them that the sales techniques used where misleading and untruthful. We asked them directly if they were party to the scam or if they were aware of it at all.
    Shire replied that it was not aware of any wrong doings and was only the finance company behind the contract...
    Well, they are keeping bad company but not on the face of it acting illegally I suppose , or at least they would try to defend in court.
    HOWEVER, SHIRE LEASING HAS CONTINUED TO DO BUSINESS with all of the companies set up by fox ,debenham and associates , and have enjoyed considerable profit while unconcerned about the public interest and legal ramifications that this thriving liaison is causing. Their awareness is their cuplability .At least thats my view and I reckon that they will have sweaty palms in court trying to explain how they where not aware of the illegal activity that they were´ involuntarily` been a part of since 2007. I wonder how many dodgy finance agreements Shire leasing has banked since the public started informing the staff at shire leasing that its leases were part of a Phone scamming business?

  4. I am one of two people in a small business also
    contesting a contract with Shire Leasing. We initially attempted to negotiate a compromise, but were met immediately, on our first phone call
    with bullying and threatening contacts. We have ceased paying Shire Leasing and are being threatended with legal and extortionate extra fees. One piece of legal advice we were given is that we may be able to get out of the contract
    by proving it is an "unreasonable" contract. Which it is -- 10,000 more pounds for already out of date equipment. Your site is great, gave us some good leads on lines to use. I think it is important to ensure the public knows not to deal with these companies or anyone connected
    to Shire Leasing. Thanks!

  5. i worked for this company as an engineer i was witness to sales men changing the customers contracts changing the amount of monthly payments i was also told by sales men to say we are part of BT .as for mr fox he has had other telecoms companies before he also used his scams at data sharp and portal telecoms whom also trade in norfolk i was ashamed to work here so i left in 2007

  6. Marc288888 - oh my goodness - you worked there? As Susan wrote above we are being bullied & threatened with legal action by Shire Leasing even though we've been trying to come to a solution to end the contract with them. From what I've read on various sites on the internet Shire Leasing are under investigation quite a lot. Is there any way you would be willing to be a whistle-blower of sorts and give a signed & witnessed statement to fraud investigators and Trading Standards to help their investigations? If so is there any way we could have a copy? We were signed up by 4Com originally but Shire Leasing brokered the lease. We were promised all sorts of money saving things like special phone numbers, but these never materialised despite calls asking where they were.
    We, like many other small-medium businesses and private consumers, I believe, are being specifically targeted for these long terms cons and scams as we don't have the resources for massive legal teams and such. If we pay what they're trying to threaten out of us, we could go under as a company. I'm sure we're not the only ones to be in that position. Anyone with inside information who could really help fraud investigators to get these people sorted out would be so appreciated by so many businesses that the country relies on to re-build it's fragile economy.

  7. Would love to know how Coco's Preschool got on in their legal battle as we are a small nursery also taken in by this scam - signed contract with Business Telecom promising yearly rebates to cover costs, having Shire Leasing broker the deal, and the lease immediately transferred to ING. We stopped making payments in Sept 09 and have now received court papers in relation to the other 5 years on the lease. Any help in our defence is appreciated!

  8. hi i used to work for a company called opal telecom, i was contact by bc telecom as they wanted to resell opals products and services.

    I am not sure if he ever set up a agreement with opal but the details were,BC Telecom 14 park street hatfield AL9 4EZ, Dan Buttel, 07958101202

    I am so sorry to hear about everyone being riped off, i suggest you contact dan buttel or at the very least repost your stories on social network sites with his contact details.


  9. Can any of your guys help??? Im trying to find any others affect by this scam - and especially any that complained prior to 8th April 2008 to: Shire Leasing - ING or trading standards
    my email address is some people have already come forward - about time leasing companies stopped helping guys like this lot out by not dealing with our complaints properly Jo

  10. i to am a victim of this lost my business as aresult we had a window blinds co. they keep tell ing e i signed for the hire of the equipment ? no i never i signed apaper with my bank details on to take the money for the cheaper calls from global tele........... 48 MONTHS @481 POUND A MONTH 28860 THOUND POUNDS ????????? I DO NOT NO ANYONE WITH HALF A BRAIN THAT WOULD SIGN UP FOR THAT ? WHAT I WANT TO NO HAS ANYBODY TAKEN THEM ON TODAY THEY WANT 24.000 OR THEY WILL PUT A LEAN ON MY SONS HOUSE . THIS IS A COUNCIL HOUSE WHICH HIS NAN DIED AND LEFT HIM ??????????? CAN ANY ONE SAY IF ANY ONE CAN WIN WITH THEM MY EMAIL IS KIRKBY.BLINDS1@HOTMAIL.COM ....ILOST EVERYTHING WORST OF ALL I HAVE LOST MY SON HE DOES NOT TALK TO ME I AM HEART BROKEN AS WELL IRENE BRAND

  11. We are sorry to hear about all the nasty problems small businesses are experiencing with Shire Leasing. We purchased a simple phone system from 4com ltd in 2004 with a 7 year lease through Shire leasing.We returned the system at the end of the lease in 2011. 4com wanted it back but we waited for Shire to confirm the legal ownership went back to 4com - no reason was given for that. So 4con profited by selling the system and now they have it back again. We have a problem with 4com ltd. They use heavy handed threatening behaviour to enforce 'immediate' payments for any thing they conjure up. In 2008 we were sold a service agreement for the remainder of the lease ie 3 years which we paid annually in advance for the three years (more profit for 4com as we never requested any support other than some initial settings alterations). When we returned the equipment 4com demanded a 2 year cancellation fee which we have been disputing since. Their behaviour is in direct contradiction to their published code of conduct and has ensured that we would never recommend them to another business (unless we disliked the other business perhaps). There are several unethical, unjustified and unfair aspects to their behaviour which is conducted in an unsavoury manner - apart from some of their staff. Seems to be standard in the telecoms industry? The telecoms ombudsman receives almost 500 complaints each day!

  12. We also have been caught out on a scam with Shire Leasing and a company called 4com. The 4com salesman came along and sold us on a deal whereby for no more money than we were currently paying for our current phone bills we would get a fully maintained phone system for 5 years.

    We were promised accidental cover on the equipment, which was a lie. New for old replacement on any equipment that failed, which was a lie. 4com took around £700 from our bank account and then provided no help in recovering it. They also took over £1,500 from our account incorrectly and it took us some time to get that money back.

    The worst part however was finding out during year 4 that whilst their maintenance agreement ran for 5 years we had been scammed into unwittingly signing a 7 year agreement with Shire Leasing. To be honest no mention of a Lease was made during the sales pitch, we were just presented with a raft of paperwork to sign with everything for number porting to ISDN phone line orders, maintenance plans, direct debits, demands and needs forms, etc,etc. A very slick scam indeed. Although it was 4com who carried out the deception the common link here is Shire Leasing who have wiped their hands of the matter stating paperwork was signed so they are in the clear. It's how the signatures were obtained that matters !

    Avoid Shire Leasing.

    Avoid 4com

  13. Eight months since the last comment and the Saga is still going on...
    My story in brief:
    1. 7 December 2007 I was contacted by Business Telecom with their offer of a “free” telephone system.
    2. In January 2008 Business Telecom fabricated a hire agreement between them/Shire Leasing and me, a sole trader, t/a LETS Ipswich. The amount of the agreement was £9000 for equipment available on the market for £300.
    3. The agreement was signed by Shire on 28 January 2008.
    4. Shire Leasing then brokered the agreement to BNP Paribas on the same day 28 January 2008.
    5. In February 2008 I contacted Shire Leasing and BNP Paribas explaining that the hire agreement was fraudulent and fabricated without my knowledge...
    6. On 31 May 2013 I have to file my Defence against a multimillion company BNP Paribas...

    Please let me have copies of any correspondence with Shire before 28 January 2008 regarding your warning that business telecom was acting illegally.

    It looks like I have a strong case. If I win it will help many people to get their monies back.
    You can contact me on

  14. 4com PLC problems

    We are a solicitors firm dealing with a case against 4com plc. If you have had problems in dealing with this company then please contact us.

    Sameer Karim - Douglas Wemyss Solicitors
    tel: 0207 0169 959 mob: 07977 212 959

    Mike Stevens - Countryside La Vie Magazine
    tel: 0116 212 2555 - e:

  15. If only you had bothered to look at the contract before signing! The number of unhappy customers represented less than 2% in the case of Business Telecom.

  16. If only you had bothered to look at the contract before signing! The number of unhappy customers represented less than 2% in the case of Business Telecom.

  17. Reading all the complains from every one that having been scammed I would like to know has enyone got out of this scams

  18. I am in dispute with 4Com at the moment, same problem, Salesman did not explain about the 7 year lease, It came as a complete shock.

  19. Small company, again the same problem with 4Com. Ombudsman Services of no use whatsoever and, in our case, they actually took guidance FROM 4Com as to whether to proceed, then wasted 6 months before informing us we should just go to court instead

    1. Are you still trying to resolve this?
      I have issues with a 7 year contract from Nov 2012

    2. Resolved now. Same scam, 7 year contract, with some persistence the Ombudsman finally came through and 4Com dropped their claim. They seem to push as far as they can go in the hope you will pay up, then drop it if you prove stubborn enough

    3. Hi Junkview. I have also been taken in by 4com. What grounds did you use to get out of the contract?

    4. Hi, we have been taken in by the same scam, we also lost a huge contract due to the sysem going down and having no call recording for over 52 days.

      What grounds did you use to get out of the contract?

  20. Hi All, my company is currently going through the same things with this awful company. we have recently received a court letter from them and we are trying to put together our defense. i was wondering if any one would be willing to allow me to share their experience as part of our evidence and if so could you kindly email me on thank you

  21. Just got hit by the same scam by Harvey Communications who seem to be part of 4com. Salesman gave impression it was a 2 year contract. It does actually say 7 years on the contract in very small print which I couldn't read (below something in much larger print which when taken together with what the salesman said seems to confirm it at 2 years). If anyone is going through the same thing and wants to connect please email me at

  22. Same thing, I would never have signed a 7 year lease as my office lease only had 18 months to run. Waiting now to see what they do as I would like to face the salesman in court and have offered to/

  23. We have just been miss sold by 4com (harvey communications) 7 year contract which we did not know about and around £7k for the phone system which we did not know about and isnt working after 6 months . We have ended up paying £2300 termination charge to our old supplier which 4 com have not given us back. They did not take over all of the phone lines for some reason so we are being billed by both 4 com (harvey communications)and chess telecome what a nightmare . Has anyone got through this?

  24. Templetown Canopies Ltd
    We have just been miss sold by 4com (harvey communications) 7 year contract which we did not know about and around £7k for the phone system which we did not know about and isnt working after 6 months . We have ended up paying £2300 termination charge to our old supplier which 4 com have not given us back. They did not take over all of the phone lines for some reason so we are being billed by both 4 com (harvey communications)and chess telecome what a nightmare . Has anyone got through this?