LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s markets watchdog banned four former company directors on Wednesday from working in the financial services industry after they misled 120,000 customers into paying millions of pounds for worthless services while selling on their data.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said David Carter Mullins, Edward Booth, Christopher Brotherton and Mark Kennedy, former directors and shareholders of now-dissolved Secure My Money Ltd (SMM), lacked honesty and integrity.
The FCA, which is cracking down on the consumer credit market to protect vulnerable customers from predatory lending practices, said around 124,000 customers were charged more than 7 million pounds in fees after they were duped into thinking they had been approved for short-term loans.
The men did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via the FCA.
In a case that dates back to 2013, the FCA said customers searching for loans online through web-based brands such as i-loansdirect, LoanZoo and the1loan were told they had been “approved” and asked to enter payment card details to “verify an account”.
But they had not been pre-approved for any loan and instead were charged between 39 and 69 pounds.
The FCA said it had asked SMM in 2014 to take down the websites. But it said the four individuals knew that the majority of customers arrived on the sites via other pages that remained live and SMM continued to take fees from new customers.
Around 1.4 million pounds has been repaid by the now-defunct company, which went into liquidation in 2014.
The FCA said a ban from working in the regulated industry was its strongest sanction as the conduct took place before it was handed powers to fine people for consumer credit practices. It is barring them for life or for “as long as necessary for consumer protection”.
Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle