Copycat website fraud – clients acquitted
Tuckers’ clients Stephen Oliver, Jamie Wyatt and Mike Hughes were all cleared of copycat website fraud charges at Teeside Crown Court after an 8 week trial. This is one of two leading cases funded by central Government and prosecuted by the National Trading Standards concerning copycat websites that are alleged to mimic official government sites but simply offer “check and send” services.
What are copycat websites?
The issue came to public attention when the national press reported, somewhat pejoratively, the existence of copycat websites charging fees for providing services that official government websites provided for free.
Defending the fraud allegations
In response, the defence successfully argued that the services provided by the websites did not just mimic the government sites. They provided additional services, for which a free alternative was not available directly from the government site. The websites set our their fees for the particular services being provided. Clients using the websites, for those enhanced, services were not being misled into buying services that they could get for free on the government site.
The jury agreed.
Seamus Austin of Tuckers, who was representing the three defendants said “the jury effectively had to make a decision with regards whether the services provided by my clients were designed to mislead members of the public. They unequivocally decided that they were not”
Is this the end of the copycat website story?
It is noticeable that the story that received so much negative national press coverage prior to trial, received so little coverage on our client’s acquittal. The Sunderland Echo sought to redress the imbalance in media coverage of this issue in reporting the outcome from the trial.
If you would like to discuss the issue of copycat websites relating to services provided by official government websites, contact Seamus Austin on 020 7388 8333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for expert legal advice.