A BUSINESSMAN from Whitefield who helped to run a company that 'pretended to be Google' has been banned from being a boss for 14 years.

An investigation by the Insolvency Service has brought an end to a long-running saga involving 40-year-old Alan Shuker, last of Lily Hill Street.

His firm, Movette, which received fees totalling more than £700,00 from customers, was officially wound up in 2017, after it was discovered they had been lured in with bogus claims that the outfit was affiliated with the internet giant.

But Mr Shuker's hand in the Manchester-based venture's operations, deemed to be "contrary to the public interest to the public interest" has led to a lengthy company director disqualification being imposed.

Aside from the misleading marketing claims, Movette was said to have established premium rate telephone numbers as contact points, so customers were unaware they were being charged £3.40 per minute, earning them £57,716 between May 2015 and March 2016.

The company also failed to submit any VAT returns, leading to losses for the taxman of £118,345.

An Insolvency Service spokesman said: "Movette made payments of £45,856 to Mr Shukers’s bank account and £242,216 to a limited company of which Mr Shuker was a director.

"In addition, there were cheque payments of £221,325 and cash withdrawals of £22,859. It has not been possible for the liquidator to explain or verify the nature of these transactions due to the lack of company records delivered up by Mr Shuker."

Customers were charged between £199 and £249 for a 12-month contract. Insolvency officials claimed their debt collection methods were 'inappropriate and objectionable'.

An earlier probe into Movette, based in Mount Street, Manchester, found they had used another trading style, Online Content Management Services and OCMS, previously used by Online Platform Management Consultants Ltd, which was wound up in April 2015, also on public interest grounds.

on the grounds that it operated against the public interest.

The investigation found Movette Ltd had been the subject of a significant volume of complaints to regulatory bodies such as Action Fraud and Trading Standards during its two-and-a-half year trading history. These complaints, together with information gathered from customers during the investigation, established that the company:

misled customers by stating or implying that it represented or was affiliated to Google when in reality there was no such relationship

misled customers by stating or implying that they had an existing contractual relationship with the company when there was no such relationship

falsely stated or implied that customers would lose their existing services from Google if payment was not made to the company

failed to make clear to customers that their contracts would automatically renew after 12 months and ignored or rejected requests made by customers to cancel

used debt collection methods which were offensive and threatening

Movette Ltd charged a fee of between £199 and £249 for a 12 month contract. The company’s financial records showed it received fees totalling £537,000.

Commenting on the case, Colin Cronin, Investigation Supervisor with the Insolvency Service, said:

Movette used deceptive methods to persuade customers to sign up for its service, including stating or implying that it represented or was connected to Google.

The company then made it difficult for customers to extract themselves from rolling contracts and used debt collection methods which were coercive and intimidatory.

These proceedings show that the Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies which operate in this manner.

I would urge any business which is contacted by cold-call and invited to sign up for a Google My Business listing to make full enquiries into the service being offered before entering into any agreement. Google My Business is, in fact, a free service which allows businesses to enter and update information with the intention of marketing themselves to users of the search engine.

Notes to Editors

Movette Ltd (company registration number 08705982), was incorporated on 25 September 2013. The company’s registered office is at 86 Stonemere Drive, Radcliffe, Manchester M26 1QX and it traded from 23 New Mount Street, Manchester M4 4DE.

The petition to wind-up Movette Ltd was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 12 May 2017. The Official Receiver was appointed as provisional liquidator of the company on 18 May 2017. The company was wound up on 28 July 2017 and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.

Online Platform Management Consultants Ltd was incorporated on 25 January 2012. Its registered office was at Suite 125, 23 New Mount Street, Manchester M4 4DE. The petition to wind up Online Platform Management Consultants Ltd was presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 03 February 2015. The Official Receiver was appointed as provisional liquidator on 10 February 2015. The company was wound up on 13 April 2015 and the Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator. The director of Online Platform Management Consultants Ltd, Roy Junior De-Vent, was subsequently disqualified from acting as a director for a period of 11 years.

Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Further information about live company investigations is available here

The Insolvency Service, an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), administers the insolvency regime, and aims to deliver and promote a range of investigation and enforcement activities both civil and criminal in nature, to support fair and open markets. We do this by effectively enforcing the statutory company and insolvency regimes, maintaining public confidence in those regimes and reducing the harm caused to victims of fraudulent activity and to the business community, including dealing with the disqualification of directors in corporate failures. Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

BEIS’ mission is to build a dynamic and competitive UK economy that works for all, in particular by creating the conditions for business success and promoting an open global economy. The Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions team contributes to this aim by taking action to deter fraud and to regulate the market. They investigate and prosecute a range of offences, primarily relating to personal or company insolvencies.

By virtue of the appointment of the Official Receiver all public enquiries concerning the affairs of the company should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 2nd Floor, 3 Piccadilly Place, London Road, Manchester, M1 3BN. Tel: 0161 234 8531 Email: piu.north@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk.