Fourth rogue emergency services publisher shut down
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
A fourth publishing company that misled clients into believing they were advertising in magazines supporting the emergency services has been wound up by the court.
Harlequin Print Ltd was incorporated in Waterlooville, Hampshire on 4 October 2018, but changed its registered address to a base in Birkenhead, the Wirral, later that month.
The company pitched to businesses, local authorities, schools, and sports and social clubs to advertise in magazines that it produced. It told prospective clients that the publications covered the emergency services, including fire safety and crime prevention.
But following complaints about the company, the Insolvency Service carried out confidential enquiries into its activities and found that it had made false and misleading statements.
Clients were told that the magazines would be distributed to local businesses and schools, but investigators found no evidence that the magazines were ever produced or distributed.
Additionally, the firm's sales staff falsely claimed to work for the emergency services or associated charities and inflated the numbers of magazines produced and distributed.
Investigators discovered the company had minimal expenditure and that the proceeds of sales were removed by the publisher’s director. It did not make any financial contributions to the emergency services or associated charities they falsely claimed they were supporting.
Harlequin Print’s company records showed that 93 businesses had fallen victim to its rogue activities between October 2018 and February 2020.
Those affected said the company used forceful and bullish sales tactics and some businesses were threatened with debt enforcement action to pay invoices they had not agreed.
During investigations, the company and its director failed to cooperate with enquiries, did not deliver accounting or trading records and broadly, were said to have traded with a lack of transparency.
The company was wound up in the public interest last Thursday (27 August) by District Judge Woodward at the High Court in Manchester and the Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.
Insolvency Service chief investigator David Hope said: “Harlequin Print dishonestly targeted nearly 100 companies to advertise in magazines that did not support the emergency services or support charitable initiatives.
“The courts have rightfully recognised the damage and harm Harlequin Print was causing and has wound up the company in the public interest to ensure no further business will become a victim of their unscrupulous conduct.”
The case is the fourth of its kind involving businesses based in the area in just over a year. Two other publishers based in the Wirral, The Hannay Partnership and KMG Promotions, plus Liverpool-based Print Publishing have also all been recently wound up after making similar false claims about their business activities.