Free ISP RedHotAnt, which closed its unmetered internet access service last week, is being investigated by Kent Trading Standards.
Kent TS is investigating whether RHA was cashing cheques for its unmetered service when it knew the service would be closed down. It is also looking into more serious problems between RHA and the company that was providing its phone time.
"The last cheques were cashed on last day of service," explained Clive Bainbridge, head of Kent Trading Standards. "We've had 80 or 90 complaints since then from people who'd paid up in December … whose money had been cashed only a week or so prior to [closure]. At the time [RHA] were making these statements offering unmetered access were these statements knowingly false?"
Kent TS has not been able to get hold of any RHA directors since it raided RHA's premises and confiscated documents and equipment. Neither have we at PC Advisor.
Day of the JAKCall
RHA is a subisdiary company of a firm called the JAK Group. The JAK Group also runs www.free4all.co.uk, a free ISP, as well as the RedHotAnt free ISP service. Both use local tariff numbers for internet access. The company has also recently set up a virtual telco, JAKCall.
According to a statement by Kevin Wall, one of RHA's directors and the registrant of JAK's company's domain names, on the RHA site, the company is defiant.
"We feel confident the authorities will find we have acted and will continue to act in a moral fashion towards our subscribers in either un-suspending the un-metered service or providing a refund package," says the statement.
"It is most unfortunate that the primary reason behind our decision to suspend the service was due to our primary source of funding withdrawing their support." Wall then goes on to blame BT for keeping a strangehold on phone charging as being a big factor.
This all confuses Kent TS's Bainbridge somewhat, though.
"[Their] statement on the internet seems very unlikely," he said. "We'd expect a lawyer or someone to get in contact with us very quickly but we've not heard anything."