ACS ‘Treated Like Criminals’ by Westminister Council Using ACS Methods

ACS:law have become famous on the internet for their speculative invoicing approach to copyright enforcement, where using an IP address and not much else, they claim someone was infringing nd threaten them to pay-up or else. In an amusing twist, ACS:Law was treated in a similar way by Westminster Council, and ACS:law didn’t like it at all.

First a quick recap. Law Firms (first Davenport Lyons, now ACS:law) started a practice of getting ‘evidence’ of copyright infringement activities. This evidence is usually an IP address being observed on a bittorrent swarm (pretty much the system I showed a little while ago). The law firm then uses a British legal process known as a Norwich Pharmacal (NP) order to get account-holder info from ISPs, usually in blocks of a few hundred. An NP can’t be contested by the account holders, though, only the ISPs themselves, so it’s a lot easier than in the US where law firms have to go through a round of suing John Does, then convince a court to grant the extraordinary step of ex parte discovery, where they then drop the case.

Once the subscriber’s name and address is obtained, a demand for money is sent out. Often it claims that people are responsible, and that they should pay up a demanded sum, often around £600, quickly to avoid expensive litigation, which could cost much more. If a denial letter is sent, more claim/accusation letters are sent, and the wording gets slightly harder each time. However, they never actually go to court – the only cases have been default judgements where the defendant didn’t turn up, although one of those judgment, £16,000 against Barwinska, is often mentioned as a battering ram in the letters.

Yesterday there was a large leak of information, mostly internal emails, concerning the operation of ACS:Law. I’ve been going over them with TorrentFreak, but there’s one that caught my eye as incredibly amusing. It concerns an email exchange between ACS:Law, and Westminster Council.

I’ve re-ordered these emails for clarity into chronological order, otherwise they’re exactly as in the source.

Email 1

From: Jonathan Miller [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 20 July 2010 11:10
To: ‘Claire Hardy’
Cc: ‘Andrew Crossley’
Subject: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors
Importance: High

Hi Claire,

Further to our telephone conversation today and upon the advice given, I will make the necessary enquiries with Avanta, the company which provides us with our serviced office, in order for us to obtain solid information on the relevant third party that manages the building’s waste disposal.

As agreed over the telephone, I will contact you in writing before the 5th August 2010 with my findings.

Again, thank you for your help and reassurance in this matter. It is most appreciated.

Kind regards,
Jonathan Miller
ACS Law Solicitors

Email 2

From: Jonathan Miller [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 27 July 2010 10:06
To: Hardy, Claire
Cc: ‘Andrew Crossley’
Subject: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached
Importance: High
Hi Claire,

Further to my email below, our building managers, Avanta Management, have now kindly provided us with a Waste Transfer Note, thus confirming the business services relationship between First Mile Ltd and Avanta Managed Offices Limited. Therefore, as a firm renting serviced offices from Avanta itself, ACS Law is now fully aware of the company responsible for disposing of the building’s waste material.

As expressed to you over the phone on the 20th July 2010, ACS Law paid the original fine of £50.00 in good faith, without actual knowledge of how our office waste ended up in the public highway. In light of this, together with the fact that we originally had no education or knowledge of what a Waste Transfer Note actually is or how to have obtained one, plus the fact that we have responded in a timely manner to the recent fine (notwithstanding the fact that we are a tightly resourced small firm), we would kindly ask that the fine of £300.00 be waived in this instance.

Since receiving the original fine, we have implemented new policies and procedures to ensure that our staff dispose of our waste in the designated areas within the Avanta complex only. This will avoid a repeat of this particular event from reoccurring. We have also recently contracted the services of a shredding company, Shred-it, which is Environmental Management Systems certified. We are therefore proud to say that, as a firm, we are definitely doing our part to protect the environment.

Finally, we wish to extend our sincerest gratitude for putting the matter on hold in order for us to provide you with the necessary documented evidence and also for allowing us the opportunity to appeal the fine of £300.00.

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime on the contact details found below.

We look forward to receiving your reply at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Miller
ACS Law

Email 3

On 13/08/2010 15:15, “Miller, Sharon” [***@westminster.gov.uk] wrote:

Dear Mr Miller

Patrick is currently on annual leave, so I will take the opportunity to thank you for your email below and for advising us that the cheque has been sent.

Kind regards
Sharon

Email 4

From: Andrew Crossley [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 13 August 2010 16:55
To: Miller, Sharon
Subject: Re: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached

I paid this fine under protest and wish to formally appeal the decision, notwithstanding the fact that I have paid.

Please let me have a date for the appeal.

Yours faithfully

Andrew Crossley

Email 5

On 13/08/2010 17:32, “Miller, Sharon” [[email protected]] wrote:

Dear Mr Crossley

Please note that there is no formal appeal process and as such, I am not in a position to offer an appeal date. I do however note that Mr Miller has already challenged the decision to issue this fine, and my colleague Patrick Rigabie has considered the representations made, resulting in a reduction of the fine from £300.00 to £150.00. Please find attached a copy of the response from Patrick Rigabie.

Should you wish to raise an official complaint, our complaints procedure can be found on the Westminster City Council website at the following address.



http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/councilgovernmentanddemocracy/councils/contactsconsultationandfeedback/complaints-and-compliments/complaints/

Yours sincerely,

Sharon

Email 6

From: Andrew Crossley [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 13 August 2010 18:48
To: Miller, Sharon
Subject: Re: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached

I will be making an official complaint without doubt. It is a scandal what has been forced upon me for a single cardboard box that I was not responsble for placing outside in the first place.

I am utterly appalled at how I have been treated like a criminal.

Email 7

From: “Miller, Sharon” [***@westminster.gov.uk]
To: Andrew Crossley [[email protected]]
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2010 17:41:38 +0100
Subject: RE: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached

Dear Mr Crossley

The fine of £300 was only issued as a result of failure to produce the requested documentation (Waste Transfer Note) regarding your licensed waste carrier, a 14 day reminder was also sent out as a reminder of this request.You will note that the fine was only issued after failure to respond to both requests for the Waste Transfer Note. You will also note that this was reduced to half the cost by my colleague Patrick Rigabie.

Regards
Sharon

Email 8

From: Andrew Crossley [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 16 August 2010 20:45
To: Miller, Sharon
Subject: Re: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached

Dear Ms Miller,

And you will also note that we produced a valid and current waste transfer note, so why the fine?

Regards

Andrew

Email 9

From: “Miller, Sharon”
To: Andrew Crossley
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2010 19:02:42 +0100
Subject: RE: Reference NW0706 – ACS Law Solicitors – WTN Attached

Dear Mr Crossley

I do note that you produced a current Waste Transfer Note and I thank you for sending this. However, the fine was issued as a result of the fact that this was only sent to us over 3 months after the request for this documentation, despite the reminder notice.

The Waste Transfer Note request was issued on the 13.04.10, a reminder notice was subsequently sent out on the 29.04.10. advising that you needed to submit the required documentation within 7 days of the date of the letter to avoid further action being taken. We subsequently issued the fine for failure to comply with this request on the 12.07.10 and finally received the Waste Transfer Note on the 27.07.10. The reminder letter was quite clear about the consequences for failing to respond to the provide this information. Please see an extract of that information contained within the reminder letter…..

@acs-law.co.uk>@westminster.gov.uk>

As a business that produces commercial waste, you have a legal Duty of Care under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to ensure that you use a licensed waste carrier to collect and dispose of your waste, and that you provide proof of this to the local authority if asked to do so.

Failure to comply with the Waste Transfer Notice and produce waste transfer documentation is an offence that can lead to the service of a Fixed Penalty Notice for £300 and ultimately court proceedings, the maximum penalty for which on summary conviction in a Magistrates Court is £5,000.

This letter therefore is a REMINDER that you need to provide the required waste transfer documentation within 7 days of the date of this letter in order to avoid further action being taken.

I would also like to confirm that the cheque was received today and I will advise Jonathon Miller as requested.

Regards

Sharon

There were no more letters in the exchange after this in the archive.

This email exchange sums up ACS:law like no other exchange. They have failed to read letters sent to them (pointed out to them in letter 9) or if they did, they failed to understand it. Particularly telling are Andrew’s comments, in Email 6 where he says “It is a scandal what has been forced upon me for a single cardboard box that I was not responsble for placing outside in the first place. I am utterly appalled at how I have been treated like a criminal.” and yet, his targets say the same thing to him, and he sends more demands. When they say that it’s a scandal what as been forced on them for a single upload/download that they are not responsible for performing in the first place, his response is, “your collection, your responsibility”.

Also, those targetted should take note of the argument presented by ACS’s representative in email 2
In light of this, together with the fact that we originally had no education or knowledge of what a Waste Transfer Note actually is or how to have obtained one, plus the fact that we have responded in a timely manner to the recent fine (notwithstanding the fact that we are a tightly resourced small firm), we would kindly ask that the fine of £300.00 be waived in this instance.”

They claim ignorance as a defense, that having “no education or knowledge” is a viable reason for not complying with the law.They also lied to the council “we are a tightly resourced small firm” when the emails make it clear that they are not.

It shows how little Andrew Crossley cares for his tactics being used against him. Of course, the big difference is that Westminster Council aren’t going to bluff, and will take him to court. Also, if confronted by ACS:law, maybe you should lie, after all, they have no problems with lying to others, like the council.