The scam is designed to get as much free or cheap labour as possible for the company through offering an impressive resume of represented companies, such as leaders in the telecoms industry, and a fast-track management plan to entice potential employees to work for them.
A1 Outsource, whose website has recently disappeared, is associated with many other companies, such as the Cobra group. Employment in these companies means door-to-door sales based on commission only, though nowhere in the vacancy advertisement does it specify this.
Although commission-based pay is not illegal, the severely low wages mean that for most they would not be not sufficient to live on, and the company seems to be taking advantage of the UK's current economic situation and thousands of newly and long-term unemployed people. Not all of the adverts for vacancies are tailored towards graduates.
Such companies renounce responsibility towards their employees by forcing them to declare they are self-employed using a series of contracts. However, as an employee is expected to work full-time, they will only be dealing with one company.
The advert suggests that the average wage for a graduate will be between £15,000-£20,000 per annum, but does warn that this is a projection. The estimated wage for non-graduates is in fact around £250 per week, based on a business model of a sale at 1 in 25 houses visited. This suggests that some may be able to excel by working on a commission basis, but at no point does the company specify the percentage rate of commission on an employee’s sales. Some of those employed by A1 Marketing have earned around only £100 in a month, despite working full-time.
James Cooper, who graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2010, attended both a preliminary and a secondary interview for A1 Marketing's direct marketing and management programme. He described these interviews as a series of attempts by A1 Marketing to avoid straightforward questions on the vague job description. The interview process was rapid, taking just one week between the applicant sending out a CV to an actual job offer. The secondary interview is based out in the field, following one of the company’s 'top salespeople' as they sold products door-to-door. Mr Cooper added, however, that the supposed leading salesperson did not make a sale that day.
This type of scam has existed for the past few years across the country, including in cities such as London, Cardiff and Leeds. Companies involved have often tended to liquidate and reform under a different name once that name has been discredited. JMS Marketing is one company that is particularly well-known for this, though the company does still function in some areas. In an attempt to combat the wider problem, affected individuals have set up a group on Facebook to “Name and shame recruitment and job scams”.
Mr Cooper, who refused a job offer from A1 Outsource after looking into the company history, believes the process “seems unethical”. He said: “[A1 Outsource are] capitalising on the current climate. They're going to get more applicants, I think, because of the current economic situation. People at the bottom [of A1 Outsource] could end up being evicted or in debt because they assume they'll be earning a certain amount.”
Glasgow University Students' Representative Council issued the following advice for students:
“It’s a shame that students are being targeted by these kinds of organisations which are looking to take advantage of the difficulties in the graduate job market at the moment. GUSRC’s Advice Centre offers quality employment advice for students who are looking for work, both as summer jobs or after graduating and we’d recommend anyone who is unsure in any way about the any kind of job offer, terms or advertisement, to get in touch with them before committing to a job.”