Here to Help

CEBTA stands for Campaign for Ethics for Business Transfer Agents. We campaign for more ethical contracts. This site was built and contributed to by clients of RTA (Business Consultants) Limited who have their Head Office in Stockport, Cheshire and we are exercising our right to free speech under the Human Rights Act.

RTA are one of a few Business Transfer Agents - eg Vendor Direct, Preferred Commercial, Advent, Meridian, Knightsbridge, Turner Butler, Sovereign, Hilton Smythe, Intelligent Business Transfer, Ernest Wilson (not an exhaustive list) who either call themselves 'Estate Agents' or carry out transactions concerning Real Estate. The latter sometimes call themselves 'Business Brokers' where no building or land is involved.  Some of these Agents have been known to breach the regulations of the redress scheme to which they belong eg The Property Ombudsman (TPOS). Some Agents did not Register on the OFT's Money Laundering Register by the due date so some transactions with their customers have been judged 'illegal by statute'. The OFT Register has been replaced with HMRC's Supervised Business Register that you can check for yourself via the Internet - https://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/msbregister/checkTerms.do If the name of the Agent or business broker is not on the Register, or if you signed a contract before the agent/broker signed the Register, your contract is also potentially illegal. HMRC'S Guidance states that business brokers need to Register. Every separate business that a group such as Ernest Wilson, Knightsbridge etc own, and have Registered as a name and Company Number at Companies House, needs its own separate Supervised Business Register Registration Number and hence its own Certificate. Check your contract and double-check with the latter-named companies themselves; check further with HMRC - there are contact details on HM Gov pages. The search results, by name and postcode, currently reveal that Meridian did not Register until  5th April 2013; Ernest Wilson (West Yorkshire) Limited did not Register until 14th May 2015; Knightsbridge did not Register until 11th March 2016, Intelligent Business Transfer 24th January 2017.

Some Agents do not carry out the full checks as to who are the Beneficial Owners of the business or property, plus personal identity checks (e.g. a passport or driving licence) on the same-said owners BEFORE commencing the business relationship, i.e. before the contract is signed. This is a lack of "Customer Due Diligence" and many judges have ruled the contract unenforceable because of this - after all, it would be in the Agent's interests to check that they are dealing with an authorised signatory to the document they call an 'agreement'.  See The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 s5, 7, 9 and 11.

There has been a High Court case - RTA v Bracewell - successfully defended by Mr Bracewell. See http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2015/630.html That case rested on RTA's failure to Register with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) but that only applies to RTA documents signed before 2nd November 2012.  OFT was replaced by HMRC as the Supervisory Authority starting on 1st April 2014.

The Daily Mirror have reported on the situation - see http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hope-small-businesses-being-hounded-5359451

Since April 2016 RTA have claimed in correspondence to their customers that the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA) does not apply, 'because [you] are not a consumer'. RTA have sent the complete RTA v Bracewell case to 'prove' their point. In fact the case 'proves' that RTA lost the case because of it being illegal by Statute because of RTA's failure to Register.  In actuality, UCTA and The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 are the main Acts that RTA and the other Agents breach. Both these Acts apply to Businesses even if you are deemed a non-consumer. A limited company is an entity so cannot be a consumer but in certain circumstances you, as a natural person, can.

We are not legally qualified but we welcome enquiries from solicitors who want to know the specific information and evidence that helps ordinary businessmen and women Defend themselves in Court or negotiate a reasonable 'without admitting liability' full-and-final settlement figure. We have a few solicitor recommendations who already have the information a Defendant needs e.g. Matthew Flynn in Ipswich mattflynn73@hotmail.com Jon Heath at Levins Law in Liverpool, Darren Neal of Bower & Bailey in Oxford, Matthew Colbourne of DAS Law,  Ardeshir Matini (Turner Butler specialism) and Marcus Brace in Cardiff - m.brace@cjch.co.uk. These solicitors should be asked for a quote once they have given some initial help on the 'phone. Firstly, please CLICK ON THE RESOURCES LINK (TOP RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THIS PAGE) for much more information, and please read the top three articles before contacting us. Also, whether you consider yourself in debt or not, a free service is available from NATIONAL DEBTLINE by phone or web-chat. Also applicable is BUSINESS DEBTLINE.

We are not competitors of RTA or any other Busines Marketing agents - we are all vetted business owners who have been harassed or misled by RTA or other Agents into parting with £THOUSANDS for doing (in our opinion) very little - for example, a miniscule advertisement amongst many other adverts on a web-site that the potential viewer has to register on, in  order to gain access to the advertisement, is hardly going to get many buyers. If you would like some support with your case then please e-mail (see below) after you have read our Resources page.

You can contact CEBTA volunteers and researchers on info@cebta.org.uk but please write some detail eg When you signed a contract, what your current problem is and the name of your business as a very minimum. If your e-mail "bounces back" please use  RTAvictimhelp@rescueteam.com Some researchers may ask for a low-value donation if you have an actual court case pending, though we still recommend solicitors to handle that for you after the first stage.

We sometimes get asked "who is a reliable business marketing agent?". Please see the web-site of Clinton Lee of TheExitFirm.co.uk. http://theexitfirm.co.uk  or http://ukbusinessbrokers.com    Below is a summary of Clinton's services:

Clinton maintains the UK's only extensive knowledge base on Business Brokers and other Merger & Aquisitions intermediaries. He assists larger businesses (£1M+ rev) by advising and guiding them through the broker choice. With smaller businesses, in most cases the owners are better off advertising their business themselves and can advise how to go about a DIY sale.

Some Judges seem to be interpreting the contract you have signed as "a contract for the sale of immovable property" or "a contract for the sale of a business".  It is, in fact, only a contract for MARKETING your property or business, only YOU as business owner, can effect the sale and you will need a solicitor to draw up the contract/conveyance.

If the Agent alleges it is a business-to-business contract, and has no cooling-off period, does it display that information prominently at the beginning of the document? Or at all?Who are the named parties?  How many pages are there, is there writing on the reverse and is the print very small? You could Defend with The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 - which applies to all those deemed 'a business' - where a contract written on the stronger party's written standard terms must pass the test of reasonableness. Even sole selling rights should have a cut-off date and not continue 'until terminated/cancelled' . Consider whether the document you signed breaches The Estate Agents (Provision of Information) Regulations 1991. Consider appointing a solicitor well-versed in contract law - we can return a list by e-mail.

If any Agents attempt to charge you VAT for a breach of their Agreement, please read the case of  Vehicle Control Services Limited’s where the Court of Appeal ruled that the penalty fees charged did not relate to any supply of goods or services, but constituted damages for breach of contract, which did not attract VAT. See www.peninsulagrouplimited.com/blog/supply-and-consideration-or-not.

AND HMRC's site:


The articles/cases/stories listed are the opinions of the contributors. If you wish to officially complain about any one of the above-named Business Agents, write to The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team. It is part of Powys County Council and is the UK’s regulator under the Estate Agents Act 1979. See: http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/work-areas/estate-agency-team/

If you suspect that a business is not complying with its obligations under the Estate Agents Act, you can send details to us at estate.agency@powys.gov.uk. They will not reveal your details in any investigation unless you agree for us to do this.

Consider whether any of this article on the National Trading Standards Web site sounds familiar: It sounds very much like what has happened to many business owners who signed a contract with any one of the 'Business Sales' Agents inasmuch as you were told that your business would be advertised widely. Source: http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/news/13m-in-illgotten-gains-seized-from-derbybased-advertising-fraudsters/ 
12th May 2017

£1.3m in ill-gotten gains seized from Derby-based advertising fraudsters

Four leading figures of a multi-million pound fraud involving a Derby-based company mis-selling advertising space have been ordered to hand over a combined £1.3m from their ill-gotten gains at a Nottingham Crown Court hearing today (Friday 12 May).
The company – Wyvern Media – were based at Derby’s Wyvern Business Park and had another 11 offices across the Midlands and the south west. Employing around 250 people, it is estimated that the company had around 18,000 customers per year with an estimated annual turnover of £7m.
The investigation was the largest ever led by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (East Midlands), which is based at Nottinghamshire County Council.
The company cold called customers using improper pressure sales methods to induce customers into agreeing to buy advertisement that were mis-sold or of pooquality. 
In total more than 500 complaints were made against the company, of which 74 witnesses formed the basis of the prosecution, the highest individual loss amounting to £31,305.00. 
Under the direction of Rivers, the organisation cold-called small companies to pressurise them into purchasing advertising space in its publications. This saw the defendants lie to businesses by using false distribution figures and misleading them into thinking their publications would be promoted at high profile events relevant to their business. 
They also used aggressive selling techniques to secure sales, tended to be unclear about what publication they were representing ...
“We are yet to meet a business that made one single sale from an advertisement in a Wyvern Media publication, which demonstrates their poor distribution methods.

“We will now be seeking to hit those involved where it hurts by seizing assets to help compensate some of the victims for their financial losses.

“We urge businesses to place adverts in reputable publications and not to be put under pressure from any advertising salesperson, no matter how good the deal sounds.” 

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
This scheme was created with the sole purpose of cheating small businesses out of large sums of money and forced a number of honest businesses – including small charities – to go under. I would like to congratulate all involved in bringing these criminals to justice – these sentences send a strong signal that we will not tolerate dishonest practices and are committed to safeguarding honest businesses.

“We urge business-owners to steer clear of these scams – if you are in any doubt whatsoever then do not get involved. If you think you have identified a scam or have been a victim of such a scheme, you should report it to Action Fraud: 
www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.”
CEBTA Note: You should report it to Action Fraud, National Trading Standards AND The Property Ombudsman Service (TPOS). In the event of misleading advertising, consider writing to the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA)