Cus­tomers ‘con­cerned’ over web­site

Sunderland Echo - - News - By Rob Freeth Twit­ter: @sun­der­lan­de­cho

A credit card com­pany of­fi­cial has told a court how the fa­cil­ity to take card pay­ments was with­drawn from an al­legedly-fraud­u­lent web­site.

Sean Glynn said the high num­ber of com­plaints against taxre­turn­gate­way led his com­pany to ter­mi­nate their agree­ment.

Four busi­ness­men, Richard Hough, Michael Hughes, Jamie Wy­att, and Stephen Oliver, are al­leged to have made more than £5mil­lion in five months from the site, which of­fered to help users with their self as­sess­ment tax re­turns.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple com­plained they were mis­led into be­liev­ing they were deal­ing di­rectly with Her Majesty’s Rev­enue and Cus­toms (HMRC), Teesside Crown Court heard.

Users thought their pay­ments of up to £1,000 would be cred­ited against their tax bill.

Mr Glynn, a credit an­a­lyst with First Data Mer­chant Ser­vices, told the jury his com­pany en­abled re­tail­ers to take credit and debit cards.

“We had a con­tract to do that with taxre­turn­gate­way,” he said.

“The num­ber of charge­backs, which is a re­quest from a dis­sat­is­fied con­sumer for a re­fund, be­came a grow­ing con­cern.

“Cus­tomers were clearly con­cerned they were be­ing mis­led.

“Fol­low­ing our own inquiry, we ter­mi­nated the con­tract with taxre­turn­gate­way be­cause of the grow­ing num­ber of com­plaints.

Mr Glynn said the di­rec­tors of taxre­turn­gate­way later made re­funds of about £340,000 to 700 peo­ple who had com­plained.

Jes­sica Dye, from the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity (ASA) told the court in 2013/14 it re­ceived an in­creas­ing num­ber of com­plaints about web­sites of­fer­ing “Gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment” ser­vices.

Gra­ham Trem­bath QC, de­fend­ing Oliver, said the ASA had ad­ju­di­cated on a num­ber of com­plaints, and had given taxre­turn­gate­way a clean bill of health.

Ms Dye agreed that was the case, but said other com­plaints had been “put on hold”.

Wy­att, 27, and Hughes, 26, both of Peartree Rise, Seaton, Sea­ham, Oliver, 47, of The Folly, West Boldon, and Hough, 43, of Thorpe Water­ville, Ket­ter­ing, Northants, each deny con­spir­acy to de­fraud be­tween June, 2013, and June, 2014.

Wy­att, Hughes, and Oliver deny a sec­ond charge of con­spir­ing to de­fraud by deny­ing con­sumers the right to can­cel un­der dis­tance­selling reg­u­la­tions.

The trial is ex­pected to take 10 weeks.

From left, Jamie Wy­att, Michael Hughes and Stephen Oliver.

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