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Radio 1 Newsbeat and the facts about Models Direct

Click here to read what our working models say about us

I am writing to you after speaking briefly to an agent called Jane in your office. We are planning to run a news report about model agencies that charge up-front fees. We would like to give you the opportunity to respond to some of the points raised.

Some evidence for this report has been obtained by recording telephone conversions between Models Direct agents and a reporter posing as a customer named Nadia Ali. The points include:

* We have received complaints from a number of your clients who have paid up front fees of more than £100 and have not received any work from you
* You give the impression clients have been "specially selected" to be represented by you
* Customers are routinely offered sharp reductions on the original cost of signing up
* Your business model involves encouraging some clients to "upgrade" to premium services
* The seven-day cooling off period required by government legislation is not clearly explained on your website, on the telephone or throughout the registration process. Instead clients are told it takes "seven days for registration to be set up and processed". The cooling off period itself is only mentioned in the small print
* Models are told not to call in to the office but contact you through the website after they have signed up. They are actively discouraged from contacting agents by phone
* Prospective clients are told Models Direct works with firms such as "House of Fraser, Easyjet, L'Oreal, Miss Selfridge and Thomas Cook Holidays". We have contacted all five of those firms and all say they have never worked directly with you.
* Your telephone message claims you are currently working with a number of clients including Burberry. We have contacted Burberry are they have no record of ever working with you

One current client told us:

* He/she was offered a three year modelling contract for him/her and his/her young son for between £600 and £900. That dropped to around £200 when he/she said he/she could not afford the amount
* He/she says Model Direct "sugar-coats" the applications process by claiming photographs are being referred to a model committee and casting directors
* He/she feels the people at Models Direct were trying to "butter me up..."
* He/she was encouraged to upgrade and spend more money. The "free trial" of an upgrade to superstar or celebrity status involved handing over credit card details which are then debited at the end of the "free" month
* Since joining Models Direct he/she has never been offered any paid work for either his/herself or his/her son
* He/she called Models Direct and was constantly told to be patient and to wait for a phone call back
* He/she knows now that no "good" model agency would ask for money up front
* He/she says the behaviour of Models Direct can make young people feel bad about themselves and encourage body hang-ups (as they may feel lack of work is because of their appearance)

You also say in your marketing that you have worked with the BBC. Please could you provide more information including contact details of the people you have dealt with at the corporation.

It is possible the government will say in the next few weeks that it plans to ban model agencies charging any up front fee including a fee for publishing details on a website. We would be interested to hear your response.

We are happy to travel to Norwich to record an interview with you, the MD Mr O'Connor or another representative of Models Direct about the issues raised in this report.



Jim Reed
Special Reporter
BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat / 1Xtra

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