CONSUMER watchdogs are warning businesses to be on their guard against an official-looking letter requesting a £95 registration fee.

The trading standards department at Hartlepool Borough Council is urging companies to be wary if they receive a letter from an organisation calling itself the Crown Data Collection Enforcement Agency, of Hyde, Cheshire.

The letter suggests companies should send them a fee of £95 for registration under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Malcolm Graham, from trading standards, said: "I have received a number of complaints about this over the past couple of days.

"The organisation has no connection with the official data protection register maintained by the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act 1998.

"In fact, the correct annual fee for registration is £35 and most small firms are exempt from such registration anyway."

If you do need to register under the Data Protection Act, the correct address is: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire.