ARGUMENTS surround who owns the naming rights to and customer database of Auckland North Shore firm Mobile Computer Doctor (1996), amid allegations of theft and unlawful practices.
The firm, owned by Barry Rolton, went into voluntary liquidation on December 24. The liquidators expect to salvage no more than 20 cents per dollar owing to creditors which includes two major distributors.
On the same day, Rolton and equal shareholder Jeff Ghaemaghamy registered a new company, Mobile Computer Doctor.
And on February 10, Aaron Stewart owner of rival North Shore company Computer Specs — with whom Rolton had sought merging his ailing business — set-up Mobile Computer Doctor (2004), and started sending faxes and fliers to Rolton’s customers, saying he had bought the rights to MCD (1996).
But Rolton alleges Stewart has “unlawfully” obtained a copy of his customer list to send the notices out. Stewart says he has not seen an electronic or printed copy of the database and is merely using his knowledge of Rolton’s customers to promote his new business.
“Someone’s stolen the database from here and given it to Computer Specs,” Rolton says.
He says he caught wind of the alleged skulduggery in early February when a mutual contact told him that Stewart had been “shouting that he had a copy of the old database”.
But Stewart says he paid $50 for the naming rights and client list of MCD (1996), which he says he has not received.
“We’ve obtained everything legally. I’ve been told by my lawyers that I’m totally in the right. I tried to buy the entire company, but couldn’t because the whole lot’s been moved to a subsidiary company.”
In a February 18 email message, of which Reseller News has obtained a copy, from liquidator John Buchanan to Stewart, Buchanan said he would not accept Stewart’s cheque because he believed Stewart had been using an unlawful copy of the database.
“I have now received a telephone call [from Rolton’s lawyer] stating that the customer list you are holding and using was obtained by you unlawfully. I am not interested in taking this matter any further …I will not bank your cheque and withdraw my consent to your continued use of the customer list.”
Fellow liquidator Callum Macdonald says Stewart was told he could be “in breach of trying to pass off”.
“He has been told to pull his head in or risk litigation.”
But Stewart says he did not receive the email message. His lawyer did not return Reseller News’s call asking to confirm this at the time of going to press. Some customers have contacted the Commerce Commission over misleading practices, Rolton claims.