A COUNCIL tax review firm whose founder was “a whisker away from fraud” when he falsely told customers their homes were in the wrong bands and promised them huge refunds faces being shut down.
Huddersfield-based Reband UK Ltd has been issued with a winding up petition, presented by the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Ex-Scarborough FC owner Jack Darrell Henry, then known as Darrell Littlewood, set up the company as Council Tax Review in 2009 despite having been a banned director since another of his firms, Total Debt Management Group, was shut down in the courts in 2004.
Mr Henry, who resigned as a director of Reband earlier this year but is still understood to run the business, was given a suspended prison sentence in January after he admitted 14 counts of misleading customers.
The Recorder of Bradford, Judge James Stewart QC, said his “sharp and shoddy” practices had been “a whisker away from fraud” after hearing how his firm falsely told council tax payers across Yorkshire – many of them elderly – that their homes were in the wrong band and they were paying more than their neighbours.
Customers, some of whom were promised refunds worth thousands of pounds, were then charged up-front fees of up to £185 for the firm to apply on their behalf for a banding review.
In some cases Mr Henry failed to make any approach at all to the Valuation Office Agency. In others, he sent off paperwork containing “worthless” information.
A number of customers were also denied their legal right to cancel their contract with the firm within the seven day “cooling off” period.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards brought the prosecution after amassing a dossier of 680 complaints about the company through the national Consumer Direct helpline.
Yesterday a spokesman confirmed that Mr Henry and his business activities are still under investigation.
The petition to wind up the company, registered to Fitzwilliam House in Fitzwilliam Street, will be heard at Manchester High Court on September 24, according to a notice in the London Gazette.
Mr Henry will face further legal action the following week when a third party debt order applied for by a group of former Reband employees is heard in Huddersfield.
It comes after an employment tribunal in March in which he was ordered to pay more than £34,000 in unpaid wages, expenses, holiday entitlement and pay in lieu of notice to 13 claimants.
Mr Henry, of Mirfield, also known as Darrell Rewston, did not turn up to the Leeds hearing.
Employment judge David Burton warned the former employees they were unlikely to get their money back easily and advised them to club together to pursue it through the courts.
The Yorkshire Post tried to contact Mr Henry about the upcoming legal proceedings but he could not be reached last night.
He has previously defended the business, which he claims has helped many satisfied customers recoup overpaid council tax without any problems, and put his mistakes down to “over-zealous” marketing.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards has urged householders who believe their home is in the wrong council tax band to contact the Valuation Office Agency directly, at no cost, rather than pay for a company to do it.
Consumers with any concerns can seek advice or make complaints through the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.