Smartalk has been forced to cease trading. The company that offered PCs for £100 under the name, is now in the hands of the Official Receiver after an application to the High Court by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The DTI petitioned the High Court for a winding-up order on Smartalk in the public interest. The Official Receiver has been appointed as provisional liquidators pending the hearing of the petition on 22 November.

A spokesman for the DTI said “We believe the company should be wound up.”

In a statement, Lancashire Trading Standards outlined the reasons for the move:

“[We] have since April been investigating the activities of the company and have always failed to obtain any information as to the source of additional monies to fund the purchase of the computers being supplied[,] or evidence to show that significant money could be obtained from the sale of the ‘questionnaire’ information.”

“It has been our serious concern that the supply of a limited number of computers has simply been funded by the flow of new participants into Smartalk’s scheme.”

Julian Edwards of Lancashire Trading Standards bemoaned the red tape that produced the timelag between knowing what was going on at Smartalk and action being taken.

“E-commerce is so quick that there needs to be mechanism to deal with these [cases] more quickly,” said Edwards. “We shouldn’t be operating as a regulator with our arms tied behind our backs.”

The Official Receiver has set up a telephone line for those who have sent the money to the company: 0207 637 6425.

Smartalk, which also trades as PCHelp and info4pc, had been offering PCs for £100 and later for £150 in return for customers filling out online monthly surveys.