Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.
In the niche: Advanced Pets fails to give its address and key data on its website
Mrs EE writes: I ordered and paid for pet food from Advanced Pets in Gloucester but received nothing. Emails were not answered and the phone was answered by an outside company stating that the lines were busy.
The company asks for details and says someone will get back to you, but no one ever does. The company issues invoices without contact details.
The Trustpilot review website has several people suggesting that positive reviews are fake. Luckily I was able to get my money back on my credit card.
Tony Hetherington responds: The invoice you received from Advanced Pets is a mess. It charges VAT without showing a VAT number, and the closest to an address is in very small print saying “Advanced Pets – United Kingdom”. Trustpilot has many detailed complaints, with 66% of reviewers deeming the company bad, while an odd 27% say it’s excellent. And it is said that she was offered a 20% discount if she submitted a five-star review.
Advanced Pets is a website-based company, but its website is as poor as its service. Some of its terms and conditions refer to the United States. Others refer to the laws of the United Kingdom, which is confusing in itself since commercial terms covering businesses in England normally state that they are covered by the laws of England and Wales, as Scotland and Northern Ireland may be different.
Even the usual privacy statement is nonsense. It refers to “Advanced Pets Doing Business as Advanced Pets”, but since there is no such registered company, it makes no legal sense. Some of the company’s terms of sale have blank spaces that were never filled in, and an entire section is devoted to California state law.
Who in California is likely to order dog biscuits or chew toys from thousands of miles away in Gloucester?
At the heart of it all is a very basic offense. Customers have the legal right to know who they are dealing with.
Details of limited liability companies can be viewed free of charge in the Companies House registers, but Advanced Pets is not a limited liability company.
Any person operating a business under a name that is not his own must disclose his surname, first name and address to which they can be contacted and where legal documents can be served. This information is not on the Advanced Pets website or on the invoices, but I can tell you the man behind it is Aaron Price.
When I asked him why there were so many complaints, he replied, “Since opening our website, we’ve gone from 10-15 orders per day to 100-150 orders, which our infrastructure doesn’t was not fully prepared.
“I am personally still shocked by the large amount of orders we receive.”
And he added: “One thing I’m sure you won’t mention in your report is that we are currently providing families in our Gloucestershire area with completely free monthly dog or cat medication or pet food for support low-income families.”
Price did not comment on his company’s terms and conditions or his failure to give customers legally required information, but he told me his address is 37 Naunton Road, Gloucester GL4 4RD. If his name and this address do not appear on his website and invoices soon, I hope that those responsible for Trading Standards in Gloucester will intervene.
Meanwhile, disgruntled customers now know who to contact and where.
The IRS won’t let me use my online account
AC writes: I was registered to use the Revenue & Customs online service through the Government Gateway program to manage my personal tax account.
But I found out I was locked out as I hadn’t used it for three years.
Trying to renew my registration proved impossible due to questions about my identity.
AC has been registered to use the Revenue & Customs online service through the Government Gateway program
Tony Hetherington responds: Part of the process of renewing your registration meant providing information about your passport and credit report. You are confident that you answered the questions accurately and honestly, but the system rejected you, claiming that some information you provided was not accurate.
You contacted the tax authorities but the officials did not want to help you. As they pointed out, if they gave you the “right” answers, they could have easily helped someone impersonate you.
I asked the staff at IRS what you should do, and they suggested you call for help. But when I read the instructions, it said: “Make sure your personal information and address are up to date in your personal tax account or you risk breaching phone security.”
Since your very issue was that you were denied access to your tax account, how could you ensure that its details were up to date?
Fortunately, the officials managed to move the goal posts. One told me: “Customers can now use GB driving licenses as one of two forms of identification needed to verify their identity on the government gateway.”
Strangely, until a few weeks ago only Northern Ireland driving licenses were accepted.
You have now received a call from the IRS guiding you through the renewal process successfully.
The debt collector got the wrong door
Ms SM writes: I am 80 years old, I am a widow and I have been at the same address since 2013.
I am sending you a letter which I received from Moorcroft Debt Recovery Ltd, stating my address but someone else’s name, and asking for £1013.
I’m worried that my address is getting a bad credit score and I’m really worried that Moorcroft is sending recovery agents to my door.
Ms. SM is worried that her address will get a bad credit score and is really worried about debt collectors showing up at her door
Tony Hetherington responds: You told me that you and your husband, who you lost in 2018, have always paid your bills on time, so let me start by reassuring you that your credit rating is safe because debt records are linked to individuals and not just their addresses.
That said, it took me less than ten minutes to track down the person Moorcroft targeted. I do not identify her today because she may have no idea that there is a claim against her, and she may not be a debtor at all. I will simply say that she lives near you, even if her name has nothing to do with yours.
I asked Moorcroft if it was all a mistake – or if the other woman used your address to get credit?
The answer is that it was an error by an outside company looking for Moorcroft debtors, and your address has now been erased from their records. Moorcroft apologizes for the distress and inconvenience caused, and you will receive £100 to make up for this.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of the original documents, which we regret cannot return.
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