RIPA and obtaining letters by TSO - written 11/01/2011 09:54:25

Hi Ibrahim


Happy New Year to you. I hope all is well.


I attended one of your courses last year on 25 May and would like to pick your brains on a situation that has arisen.


Here in Trading Standards we are aware of a scam. Basically, consumers order goods over the internet and pay for the goods. The goods are not delivered and the consumers then write to the trader at the address given which turns out to be a mail forwarding address. The owners of the mail forwaring address have no association with the fraudsters, however they have a sack full of complaints.


We wish to take possession of the sack of complaints and open the mail and return it  back to the consumers advising that this is a scam.


Are there any RIPA implications in doing this?


My thinking is that the mail forwarding business is  not a service provider for the trader as there is no business association with the fraudster. The fraudster has merely used their address as a fake address.


In any case I am not sure that the mail forwarding company is a service provider in any case for the purpose of RIPA, as they would typically receive mail via Royal Mail and hold it for collection or they would post it on to their client using Royal Mail or another postal service.


Under RIPA I know that we cannot ask for the contents of letters or emails, however in this case it is the mail forwarding address who wants to give us the mail as opposed to us asking for it and in any case I thinking that this scenario is not governed by RIPA.


Your thoughts would be appreciated, as I am sure I am missing the obvious somewhere along the line.