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It sounds like they were created by a third party product rather than anything by Adobe.
I would start there. They probably don't meet Adobe's PDF standards and the newer versions of Acrobat and Reader are a little pickier about that.
Thanks for the reply ~graffiti. I had already spoken to my friend who is trying to find out from the council which pdf creator they actually use. A Google search of Generic 25C-1 indicates that it is Konica Minolta or Imagistics printer software which creates the pdf from a Postscript file if I read it right. It still doesn.t explain why, when we have exactly the same OS, browser and version of Reader, I can open the docs and he can't. I intend to go to his house and really check on his settings when I have time, just to make sure. although, again, he can open pdfs from other sources.
Yeah that's going to be a tough one to track down. It could be in Reader or it could be a system preference that he has set differently. I wouldn't rule either out.