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Can Scientology be tripped up by consumer protection? You must hear this pitch.

 
We recently learned about an attempt by a UK resident to turn Scientology in to the consumer protections agency there. In November, a detailed description of Scientology’s abusive business practices was submitted, and we’ve been given access to the report as well as the response it received from UK Trading Standards. To get more background on these events, we discussed the story with a person in England familiar with the complaint. Here is what we learned.

The Bunker: Does Scientology in the United Kingdom have to comply with consumer protection regulations?

Correspondent: The short answer is: Yes! Here in the UK, Scientology does not benefit from the First Amendment protection that it so successfully exploits in the US. In this country, if you are engaging in the sale of goods and services, which Scientology is, then you have to play by the appropriate rule book.

The Bunker: And? Is Scientology playing by the rules?

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Correspondent: Absolutely not! It goes without saying that the organisation is breaking every aspect of fairness and common decency that one would normally expect from a business, never mind an organisation that calls itself a church. There are very specific consumer protection regulations that are being breached by Scientology every single day of the week.

The Bunker: We gather this is where the UK Trading Standards Agency comes in.

Correspondent: Yes, anything that falls broadly within irregular or abusive business practices can and should be reported to UK Trading Standards. The surprising thing is that up to this moment in time, few if any Scientologists have been aware of this option. We were told that the dossier that UK Trading Standards received towards the end of last year was the first and so far, only report of this nature against the Church of Scientology.

The Bunker: Tell our readers a bit more about this report.

Correspondent: The report was filed by a former Scientologist who had himself fallen victim to the Church’s abusive practices. His research uncovered that Scientology’s business activities within the UK do indeed fall under consumer protection regulations and this was later verified by UK Trading Standards. Many of Scientology’s standard business practices are in breach of fair-trading regulations. In simple terms the regulations state that “unfair commercial practices are prohibited.” In practice this means that “High Pressure Sales,” the use of “Undue Influence” or the misrepresentation of a commercial, quid pro quo transaction as
“donation-based” are all not lawful. The report has given UK Trading Standards a detailed insight into the abusive financial practices of Scientology in the United Kingdom.

The Bunker: Were you surprised by the response it received from Trading Standards?

Correspondent: Not entirely. I was somewhat disappointed though. The senior investigating officer, after some deliberation, came to the conclusion that
the reported abuses were an “isolated incident” and would therefore not warrant further investigation. Now, we all know that this is far from the truth. Regrettably, from the Trading Standards’ point of view, if all they have on file is one single report, it is somewhat understandable that they might come to that conclusion. The investigating officer has however indicated that Trading Standards will consider enforcement action if further evidence were to be presented to them. I suppose, this is where your readers come in. Other former members who have experienced financial abuse at the hands of Scientology within the United Kingdom should consider coming forward with their stories and file their own individual reports. Many, if not most Scientologists will have experienced abusive commercial practices. These incidents should be reported to UK Trading Standards, whether individuals are resident within the UK or not. Even if Trading Standards does not immediately take enforcement action, at the very least they will accumulate an official record of what goes on behind the scenes at the “Ideal Orgs.”

The Bunker: How should people go about this?

Correspondent: The process is very simple and unlike legal action, does not cost a penny. Trading Standards has a webpage where reports can be filed. The webpage also allows one to upload documents in support of a report. I would advise people to prepare everything in advance and then copy and paste this into the incident report form, attach any supporting documents they may have and that’s it. Job done. All pretty simple and straightforward. Trading Standards will have to keep the report on file and respond to it, to let the person know whether or not the agency intends to take action.

The Bunker: What kind of documents should be attached to these reports?

Correspondent: First of all, anything showing your commercial relationship with the organisation. In other words: invoices, account statements, price lists, cost estimates or offers of discounts, any documents relating to unusual loan arrangements, such as lending or borrowing among Scientologists, documents relating to unwanted and unsolicited financial advice, like loans or extending credit card limits. All of this is clearly commercial. Then there is this whole topic of money on account and the organization’s unwillingness to honour refunds or repayments. Any documents relating to this issue, including any relevant letters from Scientology solicitors should also be attached. Another important topic is undue influence. Sadly, the concept is often poorly understood, even by legal professionals, who should really have a better grasp of the term. The definition of undue influence goes something like, “exploiting a position of power so as to apply pressure.” A church is almost by definition in a position of power over its membership, especially if, like Scientology, it has such a punitive way of handling any kind of criticism or non-compliance. Undue influence in Scientology is not just an incident here or there. It’s ever-present. It’s there all the time, and yet to the membership itself, it is largely invisible. It is one of those things that is almost impossible to fully comprehend if one has not experienced it for oneself. People often say: “Why did you not simply walk out the door?” Good question, but easier said than done. The mind manipulations Scientologists are subjected to are extremely powerful and go very deep. In addition, the threat of “disconnection” is a very effective control mechanism. If you have received any threatening or abusive letters, they should definitely be included, also anything relating to threats of “ethics actions” or “disconnection” or “SP declares”. Documents are of value, but ultimately, the report is probably more important. If a sufficient number of people come forward to Trading Standards, then the individual reports will largely corroborate and validate each other.

The Bunker: Can people get more information on reporting Scientology to UK Trading Standards from somewhere?

Correspondent: Yes, there is a leaflet available with further information. It can be requested by sending an email to payasyoupray.religion@gmail.com. If one asks nicely, they will happily answer any further questions that may arise. At least that’s what I am being told.

The Bunker: One would think there are plenty of people in the UK who might have stories to tell.

Correspondent: Only too many. I know of vulnerable people who have been defrauded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds. I know of people who have lost their homes. This sort of thing does go on. The organisation is relentless in its thirst for money. To some degree every Scientologist is vulnerable, because they are all subjected to undue influence, but when the Scientology regges come across an easy target, they do not stop until they have bled that person dry.

The Bunker: How do you think Scientology will respond to the possibility of being investigated by UK Trading Standards?

Correspondent: I expect more of the same, more trickery, more misrepresentation, more lies. But let me make a really revolutionary and shocking statement here, one that will cause a very tsunami of disgust to rush through International Management right up to David Miscavige himself. As unheard-of and preposterous as it may sound, but: “How about treating members and ex-members with just a very basic amount of fairness and decency?” That would change things almost immediately and literally handle most of the organisation’s problems overnight. If the church were to let sea-org members leave with dignity and gave them a warm handshake and a small sum of money to help them on their way, instead of branding them as “degraded beings” and presenting them with a free-loader bill, most people would be on their way and in all likelihood never bother the organization again. Same with the public Scientologists. Let them get on with their lives, pay them back their money on account and Bob’s your uncle. No hassle, no unpleasant and costly come-back and all that for a minimum of financial outlay. But would that ever happen? Unlikely. I can already hear Miscavige scream at the top of his voice: “Fairness? Decency? Have you guys gone completely nuts? Who do you think we are? Some sort of a religion or charity or something? Don’t be daft!” When you take a little look behind the scenes, you soon begin to realise that money isn’t even the issue for OSA. They don’t worry about spending money. Just look at their legal expenses or PI costs. It’s not about the money for OSA. What motivates them is pure and simple vindictiveness. They simply want to make Ex-Scientologist’s or Critic’s lives as miserable as possible. Cost doesn’t even come into it. OSA is clearly walking in the footsteps of Hubbard himself. His hatred of any kind of criticism whatsoever clearly lives on in the OSA standard operating procedures. And each and every time, they are shooting themselves in the foot with these abusive tactics. They are continuously creating more and more extremely dedicated enemies. But will they ever learn? I doubt it.

The Bunker: Let me thank you for your time and we do hope that a sufficient number of ex-members will come forward and report their experiences with Scientology to UK Trading Standards.

Correspondent: Yes, I think that this could very well make a difference. Like I said, at the very least an official record would be created. With a bit of luck an investigation would be launched and with a little more luck Scientology in the United Kingdom could face enforcement or court action. After all, these breaches of Consumer Protection Regulations are criminal offences and can result in substantial fines or prison sentences. It is no small matter for the church to be routinely defrauding its own membership of their basic consumer rights.

 
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HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. We have something in mind, but for now we’re not giving out information about it.

Friday night we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22.

 

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Kelly Preston, Beck, and Anne Archer]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] While in hiding, Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard sent advice to newly elected Ronald Reagan
[TWO years ago] Danny Masterson: Victim C gets support from a veteran actress
[THREE years ago] BACK ON: Scientology ‘disconnection’ billboard OK’d by competitor after Outfront bails
[FOUR years ago] Scientology really, really, really doesn’t want you to see this movie
[FIVE years ago] Jon Atack: Why it takes so long to recover from Scientology
[SIX years ago] Scientology Targets Aussie Kindergartners, Swedish Grade Schoolers
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology + Nation of Islam Charter School to be Exorcised from the Earth Forever

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,382 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,513 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,015 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,495 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 558 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 446 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,753 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,621 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,395 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,169 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,515 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,081 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,001 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,168 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,749 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,009 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,049 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,761 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,287 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,376 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,516 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,836 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,692 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,811 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,167 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,469 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,575 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,977 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,849 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,432 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,927 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,181 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,290 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on March 8, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

 

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