Enticed with hopes of a successful modelling career, here’s how we helped a member get her money back after her bank refused to help her reclaim her cash.
Last April, Which? Legal member Lisa’s son attended a photo test shoot with Media Style in London’s West End.
They paid a £50 deposit, which Media Style promised to refund on the day. During the six-hour session, the ‘model assessor’ and ‘director’ enticed them with hopes of a successful modelling career, calling Lisa’s son ‘a natural’ and highlighting the potential to earn thousands.
At this point, Media Style demanded a payment of £1,975 for the portfolio of photos it had taken, saying that if the family didn’t pay that day, the portfolio would be destroyed.
As a result of the high-pressure selling tactics, they paid using their HSBC debit card. But they never received the CD-Rom of pictures or modelling business cards.
Lisa researched the company and realised she’d been scammed. She contacted HSBC to try to get her money back.
HSBC told Lisa she had no grounds to reclaim her money, and refused to start its chargeback procedure.
We advised Lisa to escalate the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which decided that HSBC didn’t treat her fairly.
We also advised Lisa to threaten to take Media Style to court by sending a ‘letter before action’, but encouraged her to hold out for the ombudsman’s investigation first, as there was no guarantee that Media Style had any money or assets to repay her.
The law on being misled
As Lisa had been misled, she had a valid claim against Media Style for a
refund under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. But enforcing this could have been difficult.
Chargeback is not written in law, but is governed by the terms and conditions that each bank offers its customers.
It usually only applies where goods or services have not been supplied. In July HSBC reimbursed the full amount, saying that it never disputed the claim, and in December the family had confirmation from the ombudsman.
Media Style didn’t wish to comment. HSBC apologised to Lisa that ‘due to a miscommunication’, customer service hadn’t met ‘the standards we strive for’.
This contribution to Which? Conversation first appeared in the April 2019 edition of Which? Magazine (page 47 – Brief cases).
If this story sounds familiar to you, were you aware of the options available to get your money back? Have you ever sent a ‘letter before action’? Let us know below, and please do warn others about such harsh practises.