Winding-up in the public interest (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills v PLT Anti-Marketing Ltd)

Winding-up in the public interest (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills v PLT Anti-Marketing Ltd)

David Mohyuddin QC, barrister at Exchange Chambers, examines Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills v PLT Anti-Marketing Ltd and explains the legal issues raised, and the practical implications and lessons that can be learned from the judgment.

Original news

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills v PLT Anti-Marketing Ltd [2015] EWHC 3981 (Ch), [2015] All ER (D) 260 (Dec)

The Chancery Division held that it had jurisdiction to grant a compulsory winding-up order in respect of a company on the company’s own application, and where there was an extant winding-up petition, which had previously been presented by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (SoS). The company was no longer trading and, notwithstanding that the SoS’s petition had been presented on public interest grounds, it had sought the winding-up of the company on the just and equitable ground, which was sufficient to found jurisdiction in the court to make a winding-up order on the company’s application. There was no requirement that the case be ‘thoroughly exceptional’ where, as in the present case, there was an extant winding-up petition.

What was the background to the public interest winding-up petition?

PLT carried on business selling the purported service of preventing unwanted telephone sales calls and junk mail. It mainly recruited its customers by cold calling, during which customers were required to make an immediate decision whether to purchase PLT’s service.

By the petition as amended, the SoS sought the compulsory winding-up of PLT because:

  • PLT had engaged in misleading sales practices in order to induce the public to enter into contracts for services and subsequently failed to provide the services in accordance with the representations made
  • PLT represented to potential customers that it was in some way backed or endorsed by the government, which it was not, and such conduct amounted to an unfair commercial practice—prohibited by the Consumer

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