Legal regulators have decided a solicitor accused of bullying computer users with threats over filesharing claims should be investigated by a disciplinary body. Andrew Crossley works for ACS Law Solicitors, which has sent thousands of letters calling for compensation payments, including from users who claim to be innocent.
As we noted last year, Which? Computing (a magazine produced by independent consumer watchdog the Consumers Association) reported that more than 20 readers had written in to say they’d been falsely accused of sharing PC games.
The accusations are based on customer details obtained by the lawyers from Internet service providers, linked to the IP addresses on record as having shared the files. The magazine believes that with false accusations the most likely explanation (beyond simple mistakes) is that wireless connections had been left unsecured and “piggybacked” by other users.
The letters demanded that the recipients pay £500 compensation and £25 costs (around US$800 at current exchange rates). Given the number of recipients, the company has demanded a total of more than £3 million. It appears few if any of the recipients have subsequently been successfully prosecuted over the claims.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has now decided to refer Crossley to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It may be some time before that leads to any action: a similar case involving the legal company that preceded ACS as the lawyers for the games companies has yet to produce a hearing date.
Deborah Prince, the legal head for Which?, said of the Crossley referral: “We welcome this decision because we’ve received so many complaints from consumers who believe they 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.”