Combined Maintenance Services Ltd and One Stop Safety Maintenance UK Ltd, associated companies, which persuaded numerous gas engineers to pay advance fees in return for the future provision of work, have been wound up by the High Court in Manchester.

The companies were ordered into liquidation following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

In spite of claims made, the companies failed to provide few, if any of the services they claimed they could.

The Court heard that the companies:
deliberately used dishonest and misleading statements to induce gas engineers to pay an advance fee, typically of 2,000, to receive work in defined postcode areas;
provided little or no work to the gas engineers in return for these fees;
operated an unsustainable business model, including failing to pay tax from the outset of their trading and failing to make provision for refunds to which the gas engineers were contractually entitled as a result of not being provided with the promised work;
lacked transparency as to the identity of the individuals involved in the management and operation of the companies, with staff frequently using pseudonyms when dealing with the gas engineers;
and that, when the companies did provide work to gas engineers, they collected payments directly from the clients and on many occasions failed to pay these amounts over to the gas engineers.

Although having their registered office addresses in London, the companies traded from premises in Ayrshire, Scotland. The combined turnover of the companies was in excess of half a million pounds.

Commenting on the case, Colin Cronin, Investigation Supervisor, said

These companies cynically solicited payments from hardworking gas engineers on the false basis that the gas engineers would be provided with substantial future work. The companies knew that they were not in a position to provide the promised work and nor would they ever be.

These winding up proceedings show that the Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies which operate in this manner.