ShinyStyle Investigates: Rogue modelling agencies and why they get away with it

By Andrea Petrou on October 2nd, 2009 2 comments

293.model.catwalk.090407.jpgI’m not exactly model material. I stand at an average 5’5 and my love for Chinese take away and chocolate means I’m not the required size six or zero.

But whilst strolling amongst the throng of shoppers on London’s Oxford Street I was quite literally ambushed by a “model scout” who insisted I had “the look for model and TV extra work.”

Being no stranger to these types of scouts, which in the past I have ignored, I thought I’d do a little bit of research for you, so I obliging had my picture taken and gave her my details. Apparently if you are “chosen” the company calls you and signs you up.

A mere 24 hours later they informed me I had been “accepted onto their books” and they wanted me to attend a casting for MTV.

So what was the catch? Read on to see what happened.

Well I didn’t need to pay them, but I would need a portfolio for which I would have to pay for copyright for each photo.

The agent said she wasn’t sure of the price but estimated it was around £70 per picture. When I asked where I would have to have these done, she said she “knew an independent studio”.

Here I would have a makeover and professional pictures taken and, because they “really wanted me” they would pay the £300 studio time. Very generous.

Now I’m more than aware of these scams so I did what any normal girl and journalist would do and Googled the company, which sounds very much like another professional modeling agency. Cue the barrage of complaints on forums accusing the company of being a “scam”.

One person on the Student Room Forum wrote: “I’m now about £100 out of pocket plus another £500 to come out of my accounts soon.”

In fact so many people have had problems with them that they have even started up a Facebook page where they are planning legal action against the company.

Alba, an independent modeling advice site, which currently has no funding from the Government, gives potential models information on legit agencies, also has this company in its named and shamed list where it says: “Loads of negative feedback on model networking sites such as Purestorm plus many complaints from models about them direct to Alba.”

But it seems that we may have got off lightly with our agency. A further look into the Named and Shamed list reveals some horrible facts including advice about the Dean Coles agency. The owner was imprisoned for rape and sexual assault of teenagers aiming to become models.

Katie Froud, founder of Alba, told me: “Since the rise of television programmes such as X-Factor and America’s next top model everyone wants to be famous and they are flattered when they are approached. They may not be as tall as Linda Evangelista but they look at successful Kate Moss who only 5’6 and think they may also be in the same category.”

She said many rogue agencies were allowed to get away with this as regulations surrounding the modelling industry aren’t strong enough. Alba has been campaigning to change this but the Model Agency Inspector, which is better known as the EAS Agency Inspectorate and is part of Government Department of BIS ( used to be the DTI) who regulates the industry, says it can’t do anything about this as the agencies “fly in under a banner outside legal restrictions.”

“We’ve had calls from people saying they have £1500 of pictures they can’t use but there’s nothing we can do,” she said.

However, Katie warned that even well known modeling agencies will, at some point charge girls for their test photographs.

“Its muddy water when it comes to photographs and agencies. At some point the cost of those photos will be passed on to the girl, possibly after she’s done her first shoot.”
Katie said many agencies, including the well respected Elliot Brown, now give girls a list of recommended photographers and ask them to pay for the shoot before picking out test shots.

I got back in touch with the agency that had scouted me and asked them for the details of the “independent” studio. The website itself looks professional (but that doesn’t really mean anything) and nothing suggests it’s affiliated with the modeling agency.

However, a look on company database Companies House shows both the agency and studio are registered to the same address and person. I asked the about this, and the claims I had found on the forums but the first three times they hung up on me refusing to comment. Forth time lucky all they would say was: “We’re a management not a modeling agency and because people work for themselves we can’t pay for the copyright.”
However they would not comment on the studio.

So what can you do if you’ve fallen victim to one of these agencies?

Unfortunately not much, especially if you’ve signed up to an online modeling agency on your own accord.

“Internet modeling laws are very loose,” said Katie.

“Rogue online agencies will say ‘well they came to us, they asked us to do it’ so they get away with it.”

The EAS Agency Inspectorate says that all agencies should charge a reasonable amount for pictures and to sign up, but according to Katie it won’t specify what “reasonable” is.
She said people who want more information about what do can print off details on the Alba website. The company has also created two DVDs to give parents and teens more information on the modeling world, which can be bought online for £6.

And the company is also working to tighten up communication with the Government, which currently has very small knowledge of the modeling industry. In fact knowledge is so poor that Government advice line Consumer Direct currently has no idea about the EAS Agency Inspectorate, which falls into the Government remit.

I contacted Consumer Direct but at the time of going to press it hadn’t got back to us. I’ll give you an update as soon as I hear back.

There is currently a currently a consultation period for agencies and regulation but until then the advice is steer clear from these so called Scouts and read up very carefully if you do decide to go ahead.

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  • Garcelle

    I was approached by a scam scout from Zebra Connection at Oxford circus!!! Luckily i did some research online and saw horrid tales of people being forced to pay up to 800 pounds after being promised by Zebra that the photoshoot cost would be taken care of.


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