Fake Web Design Reviews Sites & Misleading Regulatory Bodies

When looking for a web design company, most people will start with a web search for something like “website designers”, “web design reviews” or “good web design companies” and a from that some of those people will end up on review websites looking at customer feedback – as what could be a better opinion of a company than one from a person who had previously used them?

Being in the industry myself I keep my eyes and ears firmly planted to the ground, and I often stumble upon things that seem all too dodgy to ignore. Here are two of those things in more detail.

1) IWDRO – Internet and Website Development Regulatory Office
(www.IWDRO.org)

One day at work I came across the IWDRO and initially thought it could be something to be associated with to add some trust to our brand in the face of so much competition, so I contacted them.

iwdro

As soon as I got the email I was stunned. It just so happened at the same time we were looking at the IWDRO we were also fishing for quotes from rival companies to see where we compared and one of those companies was The Smart Marketing and Media Group, and this was the lady I had been speaking to;

smart

Was this some crazy coincidence?

I looked into each company individually and found a guy with a fair few directorships under his belt;

smart_busted

Well gawd dammit.

So a guy that runs multiple design and development companies owns his own “Regulatory Office” for web design?

Ok, so its not a scam but I couldn’t help feeling a bit put off by these findings.

EDIT: It’s worth noting at this point that personally I do not believe that there is anything dodgy about the IWDRO in itself, but I cannot help feel that a privately owned, profit making company calling itself a “Regulatory Office” is a bit of a blag.

2) Review Site & Web Design Review
(www.Review-Site.co.uk // www.WebDesignReview.co.uk)

Nope, I didn’t miss some of the names off. These are the names of (drumroll) some review websites for web design companies, but not all web design companies – just ones that fit a certain criteria.

Surely that criteria is whether or not those companies are good value for money, customer service and excellent technical ability?

Unfortunately not. The criteria seems to be that the companies listed need to be owned by the person that also happens to own all the review websites, our old mate Simon Macbeth. It seems he’s not content with screwing with peoples lives and ripping his housemates off – he also wants to lie to potential customers and pretend he runs a highly recommended professional web agency. From what i’ve heard he’s far from professional.

Anyway, here’s some evidence to back up my claims.

His main company 1-to-1 Web Design has these on the sidebar of every page;

These link to the Review-Site.co.uk page for 1-to-1 Web Design and the homepage of WebDesignReview.co.uk, both of which are owned by Simon;

He also owns about 50% of the companies on the “Leaderboard” on WebDesignReview.co.uk. Its a virtual web of BS and to the unsuspecting eye it’s all quite believable.

Really dodgy stuff all round and It’s certainly made me think about online reviews and testimonials on websites. I’ve found the best way to truly gauge a company’s worth is to ASK the people that they have done work for, and speak or message them directly. They normally don’t mind regardless of their experience as they will either want to sing their praises or slag them off – either way you hear straight from the horses mouth and can make your own mind up based on that.

And if you didn’t fancy contacting someone directly then use a service like FreeIndex, Reevoo, Review Centre or Trustpilot. Don’t just believe something you read because it has some stars next to it 🙂

Stay safe!

–> Meet Simon Macbeth 🙂 <–

37 thoughts on “Fake Web Design Reviews Sites & Misleading Regulatory Bodies”

  1. Thanks for the useful info about IWDRO, I’m getting emails and phone calls galore from them. (I get two copies of every email from them for some reason). It seems they’re really keen for me to join their little scheme. As far as I can tell, they allow 6 web designers to pitch for every contract, in return for an up-front payment from each.

    So they get paid 6 times before a contract is even awarded. Nice work if you can get it! I don’t mind paying commission for a contract, but paying for the right to bid? No way!

    Unless you’re a government appointed body (which they’re not, I asked them), calling yourself a “Regulatory Office” is very misleading. I’ll be avoiding this lot for sure.

    1. Hi Adam,

      Glad you found the information useful. I have to admit I also hate lead generation schemes like this, its not how this sort of business should be done.

  2. Hi Olly,

    This is why I love the web, you get contacted from the IWDRO and you only have to Google the subject and you can find your website!

    Got to say when I spoke to them today, a sales guy tried the “I’ll reduce it for you today, if you sigh up today trick”. When I asked can he call tomorrow, he spluttered and stammered the words he wasn’t in tomorrow!

    Yes it seems a good website, but when you search for the obvious keywords they are no where to be seen! I personally do not like paying for a lead and being up against 5-6 other people/companies. Seems bonkers to me!

    It’s far easier to pick up the phone or get out there and create genuine business.

  3. Hi Olly,

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been getting a near constant barrage from this lead generating company pretending to be a regulatory body.

    I contacted a few of their “customers” to here their side of the things, an example response; “I have paid £500 so far on different leads, not a single one has answered my emails, calls or made any contact with me at all. I wish I didn’t sign up, I have now stopped buying the ‘leads’ as they promise that they are qualified, but out of the 15 I have bought every single one hasn’t answered.“

    That coupled with some other responses and your own article was enough to put me off.

    Cheers for your article.

  4. I get 3-4 calls a week from the IWDRO. I nearly signed up actually, but then I called around other companies on their directory in my area and as it happens, nobody had anything good to say about them at all.

    Don’t take my word for it, if you’re considering the IWDRO, try calling some people on it and find out what they think. Seems like a huge scam and people should steer clear.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Chris.

      It seems many people are starting to see through them and as they are a LTD company I wonder if they will simply rebrand and do it all over again?

  5. Olly,

    Thank you for this information – you just saved me £355

    I just received an email offering me a “lead” for SEO services from IWDRO

    Looking at the website I too thought it would be a benefit to join the official “Regulatory Office” for web design etc.

    Thought I would look for reviews and THANKFULLY your review was ranking above their own “review” page.

    THANK YOU

  6. Interesting – We signed to IWDRO with the hope of generating some quick wins. However as repeated above we also have paid for 5 leads and only one of those leads actually opened the email that i sent outlining our proposals etc. We have tracking so can tell when they open emails and open proposals. No one answered their phones, no response to any emails, just really bad quality leads. Not impressed so far.

  7. I was also getting bombarded with emails and phone calls from Chris Biffen from IWDRO. In this day and age every sucker has a social profile somewhere, so doing a quick search for Chris Biffen I got his photo, doing a search on the photo it seems they are cloning at IWDRO.
    Simon Hubbard, Chris Biffen, Christopher Biffin and Chris Birdsell all have the same profile photo on LinkedIn.

    Cheers for the heads up Olly, and hopefully anyone who is approached by this company will have the gumption to do a quick search and find your page.

  8. I can confirm that IWDRO was set up and run in the same small office as The Smart Marketing Group. They were pretty awful at being a design agency, and they quickly worked out that their lead generation ‘service’ made more money for them. They also take the best leads and pass them onto Smart’s sales team. HANDY.

    The majority of staff working at IWDRO are actually Smart Marketing Group employees.
    It’s a big money making sham with a shiny face on it.

  9. Thanks for posting this, Olly. Agree that lead generation services aren’t (necessarily) a scam; nor are pay-to-use-our-logo advertising schemes. Still, I suspect that a video claim like this: https://youtu.be/gWWK4vyavfQ?t=21s “…as the UK’s only official regulator overseeing suppliers of web design, web development, SEO and digital services…” would count as a false advertising scam. “Official” aside (as it doesn’t seem to mean anything in this context), they certainly aren’t the “only” membership organisation for the UK web services providers.

  10. Hi Olly,

    Thank you for this post!

    I was contacted by ‘The Internet & Website Development Regulatory Office’ just today, and I was given the same spiel as you get from any of these sites. They promise the earth and return absolutely nothing.

    Stay away from theses sites at all cost! I lost £360 to a company called ‘Office essential’ the same time last year, they promised around 20 leads per year with a listing on there website. I didn’t get a single lead let alone a contract out of it. So when I received a call from Chris Biffen I was highly sceptical. I did a search on LinkedIn and found that the same guy that runs ‘Office essential’ (Kirk Wyton) who has also had numerous directorships is also linked to the guys who operate and run this company.

    If it seems too good to be true……..well you know rest.

    1. Thanks for this – I was looking for info on Office Essentials who have contacted me about paying £300 for the privilege of receiving coaching referrals. Much appreciated!
      Monica

  11. Hi,

    Just found this while researching a blog I’m writing about taking these lead gen clowns out of the game. Agreed with your post and much of the following comment. Like others, I particularly dislike the disingenuous use of the words “Regulatory Office”.

    Consumers of our industry’s output are already pretty confused, this doesn’t help.

    d

  12. Thanks heaps Olly, luckily I started looking into them and found your article, this triggered my own in-depth search on them, of which was very interesting to say the least, so thanks for the heads up. I only hope all web design company’s or marketing company’s that are approached read up on the IWDRO before going in head first.

  13. Glad to see that other people are publishing warnings on this.
    I just received an email from WIDRO as prospective SEO customer.
    Fortunately, besides the fact that I will pretty much guarantee not to do business with any company that spams me, especially about SEO, I spotted the word Regulator and knew instantly that this would be a scam.
    Regardless of whether such services are truly delivered (and from the above comments it seems that basically they are not, and who can be surprised) I believe that they absolutely must be guilty of some variation of fraud/deceptive or misleading advertising. It’s just a challenge to know who to report them to.
    At the very least they are spamming. I’m sure somebody else out there knows better than I how to report that offence.

  14. Also received email from this company today. At first glance all seems very legit but from experience I immediately recognised this as a very very elaborate scam. If it was possible to look into this further (if I had the time to waste) I am pretty sure that the leads themselves would turn out to be just people (email addresses numbers) belonging to the team of scammers.

    A few years back I was approached by a similar outfit who wanted to sell me leads. The offered some FREE ones to get my trust and interest. of course needless to say nothing came of these leads… I was strung along with fake interest from the bogus lead right up to producing a proposal for them (many hours of my time wasted on these) then all of a sudden …their mother was taken into hospital etc etc or some other excuse as to why they had decided not to progress any further and the project would be delayed/postponed/cancelled.

    I conducted very thorough due diligence and research on the outfit eventually outing them as a scammer outfit outline. I received email and call from the company asking me to remove my negative remarks from the website i used to identify them a scam outfit, threatening legal action. I refused citing my reasons and research, They did not follow up any further. Their bullying tactics did not work. So just be aware these sorts of scams exist and have done for years, They are getting more and more intricate and dare I say believable. Of note recently and in this instance are the fairly sizable budgets in offer £5k, £10k minimum etc very appealing!!

    1. Dave,

      Please can you contact me. I want to discuss this with you since I’m trying to find someone who actually purchased the leads. So far everyone I’ve spoken to says they only bought membership and didn’t bother or have yet to bother actually buying a lead.

      1. I have bought several leads from this company since February 2016. As mentioned above, the vast majority of leads are complete garbage and probably don’t exist. Very few end up returning my calls or emails.

        I have actually won some business though from two leads that i purchased so I can’t say that every one is a waste of time but it seems that 95% of them are. You only need to take a look at simple CMS sites with a budget of £5k + to know that there is little chance of a happy outcome.

        Of the two leads that did produce business, both clients said that they were inundated with calls / emails from web design companies. IWDRO say they only allow 4 companies to purchase each lead but if IDWRO are also linked to other companies who also get in on the act, then that is why the clients get a bit fed up with “another web designer” calling about their project.

        Overall a bit disappointing really…

  15. This is the biggest spam that their ever was!!
    WARNING TO ALL UK BASED WEB DESIGNERS AND DEVELOPERS – – – THIS IS A COMPLETE CON, DO NOT JOIN IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO GET NEW BUSINESS!

    I was daft enough to sign up, and although the regulatory idea is quite credible, the lead generation service is a complete WASTE OF TIME.

    Each lead is priced on the basis of the so-called ‘confirmed budget’. I have purchased 5 leads and found the confirmed budget to be fictitious and the customers are actually looking to pay a much lower value.

    1. Hi Oliver,

      I’d like to know more about the leads you purchased, since I’m writing a critical article about this company. I believe it is a scam but need to speak to someone who has gone through with the purchasing of the leads.

  16. I am looking to join and agree, the badge seems appealing and will be useful. Some real idiots on this thread though, you say you buy leads and the values are different, obviously never bought leads before mate! The fact that you have spoken them is a start, you should try Approved Index or any of the other monkeys selling so-called leads! Just because price varies, hardly a con is it.

  17. Thanks goodness for this post, I to got caught a year ago by a company called Business Essential, promised the earth and I got nothing, to hear there is some link between the two has made be really annoyed.

    It does seem very genuine and it was be easy when looking to promote yourself to fall for it, that daft thing is i always say no to these things !!! must have got me at a weak moment !!!

    I have had several call from a Mat Jones and as just about to send a payment, thanks Olly.

  18. Thanks for the heads up Olly… you the man!
    These scammers are real trash… just deceiving innocent people as well as us web guys!
    My first time on your site – nice stuff.

  19. Brian, I’ve spoken with Mat before too. Did a little research after finding this thread and found he is in fact Simon Hubbard’s brother in law. IWDRO are just a big family scam by the sounds of it?

    How are they getting away with calling themselves an Internet regulator? That is surely false advertising at the very least?

  20. The IWDRO are the biggest bunch of scammers on the planet. I was regularly telephoned over a two year period and eventually relented just to get them off my backs – they let me become a member for half the going rate. I then started to receive leads and was very dubious about buying any. One of my staff said I should purchase some, and he would call them. Same old story, buy a lead only to find out that the lead had been called by half the world and the project was six months old. I complained and got my money back, this scenario went on for ages, I would buy a lead we would call, and the lead would tell us that their project was old or had already been created.

    I recently let my membership expire. Have been going through NAP of my company and found my old address on their listing as I have recently moved premises. Logged in and I can’t do anything to my account unless I renew my membership (Quelle surprise) so I talked to them via live chat – the chap would not change my listing unless I renewed my membership – I told him that he was holding to me ransom – same response – renew your membership.

    Anyone thinking about joining…….DON’t unless you want a lighter wallet and a bunch of incompetent idiots taking your money – I don’t know how they can be allowed to get away with it – should be closed down!!!

  21. Darren of smallbizgeek.co.uk and Heather of webdevlaw.uk have done a great job of researching IWDRO and published articles about this scam.

    “Warning: Dubious Web Industry “Regulator” Selling Questionable Business Leads”
    http://www.smallbizgeek.co.uk/proclaimed-web-industry-regulator-sells-low-quality-business-leads/

    “Enough is enough: exposing a fake web industry regulator”
    https://webdevlaw.uk/2016/11/15/fake-web-industry-regulator/

    Anyone who’s fallen for their scam, why not use one of the links at the bottom of Darren’s article to make a complaint about them?

    And how about tweeting about it using @IWDRO and @bbcWatchdog.

  22. You say that, but Olly was threatened by IWDRO law for defamation. Although Olly hired a top law firm to tell IWDRO to piss off, literally.

    IWDRO let a man with no rights to practice law in the UK draft letters with their name on it to attempt to defend them and Tom Sullivan allowed it to happen. I’d say Sullivan is as much behind the scam given his conduct thus far!

    1. It’s actually worse than that, Neil – Tom has been their company secretary since 2013. He’s not just an outside advisor; he helped start the business up. He is also a partner at the law firm which sent that letter to Olly.

      It is absolutely extraordinary, really. We have a commercial solicitor who has signed off on this for-profit outfit’s conduct from day one. You can see the research I did on him, as well as on our international man of mystery who sent Olly that legally bunk C&D letter, in the post linked to above.

      It’s safe to say we did not go into this story expecting to find anything near what we’ve found – I certainly thought this was just going to be about an obscure nuance of law concerning business names – but every new discovery finds a new way to leave us gobsmacked.

  23. Does anyone know if IWDRO are still going? There website seems out of date (no new leads posted for weeks, nobody answers the phone and it looks like half the staff that worked there don’t seem to be working there anymore)

    To be honest, looking through the feed, i’d be surprised if they were still going. i know a few companies that have worked with them in the past and said the leads were rubbish and they kept being pestered to sign up.

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