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Makerhouse – Sole Trader warning

By BrianParsonageKelly
Makerhouse – Sole Trader warning

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to fill you in on an ongoing tussle we had with Makerhouse. One of our clients did an ad for them a couple of years ago with no bother.

Recently, they asked to renew, so we agreed everything. They even asked for permission to use the material before we were paid, so we agreed, assuming the PO was imminent. Our business has Sole Trader status, and before issuing the PO, they suddenly asked for ‘proof of existence’, which in their terms, appears to mean that the owner of the business (ie myself) must ‘prove’ they are a ‘natural person’!

It was very difficult to get out of them exactly what document we were supposed to produce. I am still not clear, but think they wanted to see my personal ID, such as driving licence or passport. Despite my arguing that they already knew who we were, had already paid us for exactly the same job, and that I did not wish to disclose personal information which was not relevant to our contract with them, they dug in their heels and said they were conducting ‘due diligence’ as they ‘were a FTSE 100 company’..

As far as I know, they are American owned. Several of the documents they suggested we provided do not even exist in the UK (ID card for instance), and having read up on it, there appears to be nothing in the law which compels a sole trader in these situations to provide any personal documentation. Asking for it this time appears to be due to nothing more than a change of policy at Makerhouse.

This dialogue started before Christmas and even their UK MD seemed unable to give me any legal justification for demanding the documentation or to explain why they did not need it 2 years ago. He would not put me in touch with their legal department or finance team.

This morning he has told me that they will edit our client out of the new advert, even though he was the main character in it. Apparently, they have not yet used the material, but I only have their word for this.

The reason for this post is firstly to ask if any other Sole Traders companies have been similarly bullied by large American corporations, and secondly to ask if you think I am wrong to query why they need private ID from me.

If I am wrong, and if this is the way things are going, it would be good to hear what everyone thinks. We have been around for 20 years, and this is the first time anything like this has happened. I just wanted to warn other Sole Traders about dealing with Makerhouse and more widely wondered whether we should start a Sole Trader sub-committee, where we can decide en bloc how to respond to such situations.

Sorry it’s long, but tell me what you think.

Brian Parsonage Kelly