Andrew Crossley, head of law firm ACS Law, is to stop pursuing people suspected of file sharing following pressure from consumers, Which? and the law.
ACS Law had sent thousands of letters accusing people of illegal file sharing. In a statement, Mr. Crossley cited a forthcoming hearing before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal as well as criminal attacks and threats, as the reason behind his withdrawal.
Which? had complained about ACS Law to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) over ACS Law’s ‘bullying’ and ‘excessive’ behaviour in 2009. The SRA decided that there was a case to answer and Mr. Crossley was referred to a tribunal. Which? has also campaigned to stop innocent people being targeted by the mass litigation tactics used by ACS Law.
Which? referred ACS Law to the SRA following hundreds of worried consumers contacting us claiming they were innocent of the allegations made by Mr. Crossley’s firm.
File sharing accusations
People receiving letters from ACS Law were often asked to pay hundreds of pounds for filesharing, or face going to court. Frightened consumers told Which? they hadn’t shared files, but had felt bullied into paying the settlement. Many of the letters accused people of downloading and sharing pornographic films.
Consumers were targeted for the accusations after their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were identified as connections over which copyright files were shared. An IP address is not necessarily unique to an account or an individual.
Sensitive data leaked online
Since the first complaint, ACS has had further problems. It’s IT systems were hacked by a group of anonymous internet users and sensitive emails and data were posted onto the internet sites, including email addresses of people the law firm was pursuing for allegedly downloading pornography. That data breach is being investigated by the Information Commissioner, and Mr. Crossley could be landed with a large fine. Internet service companies had recently also refused to hand over customer details to ACS Law.
ACS Law tried to withdraw some of the cases that it had tried to litigate in court. Judge Birss, who was hearing the cases, said that this was ‘highly unusual’ and insisted on further examination.
ACS agrees not to pursue further cases
On the 24 of January Mr. Crossley gave a statement to the Patents County Court confirming that ACS Law would no longer be pursuing this line of work.
Mr. Crossley’s statement said that he was halting all of his work on file sharing due to online threats and a pending solicitor’s disciplinary tribunal hearing against him.
Deborah Prince, head of in-house legal at Which? said:
“It is good news that ACS is no longer carrying out this work – let’s hope the judge in this case decides that an IP address alone is not reliable evidence to prove unlawful filesharing and that an account holder is not liabile for anoter person’s unauthorised actions. That would make it very unlikely that any law firm would carry out similar work.”
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