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Scareware solicitors sent to regulator

Lawyers to defend P2P porn pensioner pestering

Consumer group Which? has welcomed a decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to send Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Which? received over 150 complaints from members who had received the threatening letters from ACS:Law promising legal action unless an immediate payment, usually of around £500, was made in order to stop file sharing investigations.

Deborah Prince, Which?’s head of legal said: "We welcome this decision because we’ve received so many complaints from consumers who believe they have been treated appallingly by this law firm. We also believe that it’s time for the profession to take action against law firms, and those responsible for them, which behave in a way we believe most right-thinking people would view as both aggressive and bullying."

One complaint to Which? said: “My 78 year old father yesterday received a letter from ACS law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded. He doesn’t even know what file sharing or bittorrent is so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else permission to use his computer to do such a thing.”

ACS:Law worked by scooping up IP addresses seen using BitTorrent, then forcing internet service providers to hand over the customer details for the assumed infringer.

ACS:Law began the process after Davenport Lyons tired of negative publicity and outsourced the work and some staff to the firm. Davenport Lyons denied any formal link to ACS:Law at the time the 'work' was transferred.

Brian Miller and David Gore, partners at Davenport Lyons, have already been referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal for their earlier work on behalf of copyright holders. Their hearing is not likely to start until the middle of 2011 - a delay described by Which? as unacceptable.

Davenport Lyons was previously forced to apologise to a 64-year old Reg reader it accused of illegally sharing sado-masochistic porn films. He denied ever having watched, let alone shared, the film in question (Euro Domination 5, for the curious...).

Which?'s statement is here.

ACS:Law said principal Andrew Crossley was not in the office or able to make a statement at this time. ®

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