Which? challenges ‘bullying’ lettersWhich? complains about law firm

10 December 2008

Which? has today complained to the solicitors’ watchdog about a London law firm that sent ‘bullying’ letters to hundreds of innocent consumers.

Davenport Lyons has been hunting for internet users who it believes have illegally shared copies of video games. The alleged file-sharers received letters from the law firm demanding payment of £500 compensation for copyright infringement.

Downloading video games

A recent Which? Computing investigation found that while working with games firm Atari, Davenport Lyons wrongly accused a Scottish couple, aged 54 and 66, of infringing copyright of a game ‘Race O7’. Since then, Atari has severed ties with the law firm. But Which? Computing has evidence from people who, after repeated letters from Davenport Lyons, have been scared into paying compensation for something they say they did not do.

William Snow is once such consumer. He wrote to Davenport Lyons to deny sharing the Atari game Test Drive Unlimited but his evidence was ignored. He has now cancelled his broadband connection for fear of the same thing happening again.

File sharing

In a letter to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), Which? says it believes the conduct of Davenport Lyons, while acting for its clients, has been ‘bullying’ and ‘excessive.’

Which? draws attention to the fact that Davenport Lyons’ letters to alleged file sharers: make incorrect assertions about the nature of copyright infringement; ignore the evidence presented in defence; and increase the level of compensation claimed over the period of correspondence. In addition, the letters threaten, incorrectly, that failing to properly secure an internet connection is grounds for legal action.

Which? Head of Legal Affairs Deborah Prince said: 'We think the SRA needs to take urgent action against Davenport Lyons. In the current financial climate, we expect an increase in the action that companies may want to take against individuals. The SRA must investigate all such allegations and take decisive action where necessary.'

People who have received a letter from Davenport Lyons and believe they have been wrongly accused should contact Which? at whichcomputingnews@which.co.uk.