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In The Matter Of Equity & Provident Ltd (2002)

Summary

Although the subject company had altered the form of its website so as to make clear the very limited value of the motor warranty it offered, its past conduct was such that it remained appropriate to wind it up on the grounds of public interest.

Facts

Petition by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for the winding up of Equity & Provident ('the company') on grounds of public interest. The principal business of the company was the online sale to members of the public of motor warranty plans via its website. The petition alleged that: (i) the company had failed to cooperate with requests for information made by the secretary of state; (ii) the motor warranty that it offered was misleading, in that under its terms and conditions, which were not available on the company's website, failed to make clear that the company's only obligation was to consider the claim, without any obligation to make payment; and (iii) the company's manner of conducting business, including an allegation that the company was engaged in an unauthorised insurance business. The company, which admitted that its correspondence to the secretary of state had been misleading, and further admitted that its website had not originally displayed the relevant terms and conditions of the warranty, contended nevertheless that it had since rectified the position in relation to its website, such that members of the public would now be fully aware of the limited value of the warranty that in fact was being offered to them.

Held

(1) The court was satisfied that all three grounds relied upon by the secretary of state were made out. (2) Although the court accepted that the website now enabled prospective purchasers to read the relevant terms and conditions, the fact remained that the "warranty" being offered by the company was a very different product from that usually described as a motor warranty. (3) Having regard to the company's past conduct, and the "devious and dishonest" conduct of those who controlled the company, it remained appropriate to wind up the company, notwithstanding the changes to its website.

Order accordingly.

Chancery Division
Patten J
Judgment date
19 February 2002
References

[2002] EWHC 186 (Ch)