Claims that don't fit the bill

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The Independent Online
A CLUB that claimed you could increase your income, save on your spending and pay all your monthly bills for only pounds 15 a month has had to amend its promotional material.

The literature implied that the Office of Fair Trading, the Trading Standards Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority had approved the scheme.

The Bills Paid Club is run from the home of Nigel Williams in Littlehampton, West Sussex. It started on 1 June 1992.

The advertisements carrying these impressive claims appeared in February. If you reply, you get an explanatory brochure. It is only then you discover the scheme is not as simple as it appears.

First, you have to pay a pounds 15 a month subscription. You then have to introduce other people to the BPC.

For each new member, according to the brochure, you will receive pounds 12.50 every month.

And how do you pay your own monthly bills for only pounds 15 a month? 'Simply by adding your bills together and dividing the total by pounds 12.50. This will give the number of people you need to introduce to the BPC.'

The brochure provides some impressive examples. If your school fees cost pounds 6,000 a year then 'introduce just 40 people' to pay the bill.

However, the figures are not quite that straightforward since you do not actually receive pounds 12.50 each month. There is the little matter of the pounds 1 a time charge when commission cheques and statements are issued to members.

There is also the pounds 2.50 charge that the introducing member has to pay for each newcomer's starter pack. And after the first year, there is an annual charge of pounds 25.

The brochure says: 'The entire package has been screened by the Office of Fair Trading, the Trading Standards Authority and the Advertising Standards Authority.'

The word 'screened' could easily be construed as approval for the scheme.

However, a spokesman for the OFT said it was not an approval body. An ASA spokesman said: 'We have looked at it. We told him (Mr Williams) to remove all references to the various regulators.' The trading standards authorities said they have given similar advice.

Mr Williams confirmed that new brochures are available. There is now no reference to the literature being screened by the various watchdogs.

He has clarified the figures and explained the deductions. Apparently, you now need 45 members - instead of the previous 40 - to sign up to pay your pounds 6,000 a year school fees bill.

Mr Williams also provides a testimonial now - complimentary remarks about BPC from satisfied members, including A P of Cambridgeshire and S H of Torquay.

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