Fresh Start Law Centre's claims on its website that the process of removing an old criminal record takes ‘12 weeks or less’ and that ‘we remove criminal records faster than any other company in SA’ has been condemned as dishonest and misleading by the Advertising Regulatory Board.

The matter came before the regulator after Conrad Schutte handed over R1 895 to the specialist law firm, paid extra for its ‘urgent’ service, and waited for the removal of his criminal record.

Seventeen weeks later, Schutte was still waiting.

When he requested a refund he was ignored, so Schutte complained to the advertising watchdog. TimesLIVE notes that the chance to expunge a criminal record was introduced in 2009 by the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act, since when Fresh Start says it has helped almost 8 000 clients.

‘The law says that those convicted of a minor offence, determined by the type of sentence imposed, 10 or more years ago, qualify for the expungement of criminal records. The sentence must have been a suspended jail term, correctional supervision or a fine,’ says the Fresh Start website.

Schutte complained to the watchdog that Fresh Start’s terms, which warn there may be delays, are only available on its website after upfront payment has been made. But the ARB said the website’s claim of a 99.95% success rate ‘immediately alerts a consumer to the fact that there may be exceptions’.

The website also offered a ‘100% money back guarantee’, said the board.

This reiterates the idea that you can reasonably either expect to get the expungement or your money back. (Schutte) has ... received neither.’

Full TimesLIVE report

ARB ruling