Alert over Agency; Firm Heading to Tyneside Is under Investigation

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), June 11, 2008 | Go to article overview

Alert over Agency; Firm Heading to Tyneside Is under Investigation


Byline: By ADAM JUPP Chief Reporter

A CASTING company accused of exploiting fame-hungry punters is heading for Tyneside.

But watchdogs today warned families to steer clear of 1stClass Images after a Chronicle probe unearthed its links to rogue model agencies which have breached advertising regulations.

The London-based firm is set to hold a talent-spotting event at a top Newcastle hotel next weekend. It claims in adverts to be on the hunt for people of all ages to work as TV and film extras, as well as catwalk and catalogue models.

But actors' unions say customers will be asked to pay large fees, with little or no prospect of getting any work.

And we can reveal the company is being investigated by trading standards in another part of the UK, a Government agency and an advertising watchdog.

Our investigation into 1stClass Images has also uncovered strong links to a string of agencies that have been repeatedly rapped for misleading people about their chances of bagging modelling contracts.

The Vermont hotel in Newcastle has cancelled 1stClass's booking for Saturday and Sunday after we contacted it.

Trading standards officers in Newcastle have also received warnings about the company ahead of its arrival on Tyneside. Dave O'Brien, head of the department, said: "We would urge anyone not to pay money upfront to agencies like this and only to use established companies."

An advert for 1stClass which appeared in Thursday's Chronicle asks: "Do you think you have the necessary qualities to be a model or extra? If so come along to the Vermont Hotel, Newcastle, for a free phototest shot and photograph."

One line reads: "We are looking for children 1-12 years for catalogue, photographic and film/TV extra work."

Despite this, the company claims in the small print of literature it gives to punters that it is not a model agency, merely a photographic firm set up to provide budding stars with a picture portfolio.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is now investigating complaints that the advert used by 1stClass gives a misleading impression about the prospect of getting modelling or TV work.

Our reporter has also been in contact with customers who went to a 1stClass casting in Birmingham on May 11, paid pounds 250 and were then contacted by a second company which asked for a further pounds 90 fee for registration with its agency. …

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