A newly elected Conservative MP can be revealed as the man behind a network of controversial companies that his local council says have been subject to hundreds of Trading Standards complaints.
One of the companies run by Bridgend MP Jamie Wallis — a claims management firm — was prevented from representing customers at employment tribunals following a Ministry of Justice investigation.
He told BuzzFeed News the Trading Standards figures disclosed by Bridgend council were "nonsense" and said his family business was threatening legal action against his own local authority.
Wallis became the first Tory MP in the South Wales constituency since 1983 when he unseated Labour’s incumbent Madeleine Moon at December’s general election.
Companies House records show that on December 20, seven days after his narrow victory, Wallis quit as a director of at least seven companies providing various online services: Fields Associates Ltd, Rapid Data Recovery Ltd, Fields Data Recovery Ltd, Quickie Divorce Ltd, Fields Group Ltd, Fields Holdings Ltd and Digzoo Ltd.
During a long-running career as an online entrepreneur before he entered politics, Wallis was previously a director of a number of similar companies including Action Direct (UK) Ltd and UK Digital Solutions Ltd.
On its website, Fields Group states that its brands include “one of the UK's leading data recovery businesses” and a “market leader” in data security. But the activities of the companies operated by Wallis and his family raise questions about his conduct in business before he came to Westminster.
In 2011, the Ministry of Justice blocked Wallis’ firm Action Direct, which represented people making claims at employment tribunals, from taking on new clients. Following an investigation by the MoJ’s Claims Management Regulator, Action Direct was ordered to remove all its advertising and websites from the internet and told not to advise any further claimants.
The Claims Management Regulator said in a statement at the time: “We take strict enforcement action against businesses that fail to comply with the rules governing their conduct. A full investigation is undertaken to establish and substantiate the facts before steps are taken to cancel a business’ authorisation.”
Wallis resigned as the director of Action Direct on 22 February 2012, but Companies House records show the company remained owned by Fields Holdings Ltd, of which Wallis was the ultimate controlling party.
In 2018, the Mail on Sunday published a story headlined “Action Direct payment protection insurance claim firm bullies sent me a £400 bill”, which contained claims that it had billed a customer despite not carrying out any work for them.
Wallis told BuzzFeed News that he had asked for his own company’s licence to be revoked. “For the avoidance of doubt, the company voluntarily requested the removal of certification from activities it no longer wished to pursue as part of a strategic review conducted by myself,” he said. “I have not been a director of this company since February 2012 and therefore cannot comment on operational matters relating to the 2018 period.”
Asked about the Claims Management Regulator's statement referring to an investigation and enforcement action, Wallis said: "My response stands. I've not been a Director of that company since 2012."
Action Direct is not the only company run by Wallis that has had run-ins with its customers.
A Freedom of Information response from Bridgend county council in 2018 revealed that Wallis’ companies have been subject to hundreds of complaints by consumers to Trading Standards.
According to the FoI response, Trading Standards had received 137 complaints about Action Direct (UK) Ltd, 166 about Fields Data Recovery Ltd, 151 about Quickie Divorce Ltd, 26 about Rapid Data Recovery Ltd, seven about Field Associates Ltd and 12 about Injunction Direct UK. The response also listed enforcement visits by Trading Standards against several of Wallis’ companies.
Wallis told BuzzFeed News that he disputes the figures about enforcement visits in the FoI response and that his former company is taking legal action against Bridgend council over the disclosure.
“The figures being quoted by Bridgend Council are completely untrue. Contrary to claims made, at no time in the last several years has anyone from Trading Standards visited any of the businesses,” he said. “The company has therefore commenced legal action against Bridgend Council's untrue claims; BCBC have asked for more time to consider the matter further, and I’ll comment further after the conclusion of this process.”
A spokesperson for Bridgend County Borough Council said: "The council can confirm that it has received a letter-before-action from Fields Group Limited. This relates to FOI responses provided previously by Bridgend County Borough Council. Due to the possibility of ongoing proceedings, the council cannot comment further at this stage."
The activities of some of Wallis’ companies — which were not widely known during the general election campaign — will also raise questions in light of him becoming an MP.
One of the companies of which Wallis was a director — a self-described “digital marketing agency” called UK Digital Solutions Ltd — ran a dating website called “lushdates.com”.
A cached version of the site included detailed “safety guidelines” and a legal notice page confirming it was “a service of UK Digital Solutions Limited”. Wallis resigned as a director of UK Digital Solutions Limited on 23 September 2019.
Wallis said that “lushdates.com” never operated as a dating website. “Lushdates.com is an open source, white-labelled website used by UKDS to showcase a customisable e-commerce package. It has never operated as a functional dating website and has never taken money for any services,” he told BuzzFeed News.
Other websites run by Wallis and his companies included “injunction-direct.com”, which offered “quick, simple and affordable injunctions", “visaaction.co.uk”, which offered visa services to people wishing to come to the UK for among other reasons, “marriage”, and "quickie-divorce.com".
Wallis said: "Visa Action and Injunction direct were commercial trials operated by Action Direct Limited in 2010. Their activities were regulated by the OISC and MOJ. Both operations were closed down by upon my appointment as Director of Action Direct Limited for purely commercial reasons. The sites specialised in offering advice and support in filling in forms online."
One of the companies of which Wallis was a director until last month — Digzoo Ltd — ran the website Digzoo.com, which also no longer operates.
A cached version of the site shows it specialised in publishing salacious “viral” stories such as “Cannibal Describes Eating Girlfriend's Brains to Police” and “Couple Raped Daughter for Years, Claimed the Children as Their Own, Then Said They Could Cure Cancer”.
Wallis told BuzzFeed News he had no editorial control over the site but defended its coverage. He said: “digzoo.com was an online publication that has now ceased to operate. I was appointed as a non-remunerated Director to provide commercial advice to the company. I had no editorial input or control. That said, the stories you identified had multiple verified sources and can also be found on websites such as The Daily Mail, The Sun, Business Insider, The Mirror, Metro, Daily Star and Dallas News.”