Rogue crack down
Bromley trading standards are cracking down on rogue doorstep traders bringing to justice three conmen in separate court cases.
James Doherty, from Essex, operating as Home Discount Paving, pleaded guilty on 26 May 2010 to three charges of unfair trading – two for aggressive commercial practice and one for engaging in misleading commercial practice. He also pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal damage.
Magistrates fined him a total of £2,000 for the four offences and ordered him to pay £300 costs. He was also ordered to pay £1,500 compensation for a damaged drive.
The offences were brought to Bromley Council’s attention by complaints from Beckenham residents during December last year. The court heard how Doherty, accompanied by another man, had knocked on doors in Birkbeck Road, Beckenham, claiming to be working locally and offering cheap deals on new driveways. It was alleged he had pressured two homeowners into having new driveways by starting the work without giving any written quotes or gaining permission to commence the work. One couple, who had said they would consider his offer once they had received a written quote, came home the next day to find their driveway had been dug up around their car which was still parked on the old drive.
Another consumer in the same road agreed to have work done but later changed her mind only to find her drive completely removed without her permission.
Describing himself as an Irish Traveller, Doherty told the court he had not acted maliciously as he had not done any work in England before, having only worked in Ireland where a contract was sealed with a handshake and no paperwork was ever given.
Rob Vale, Head of Bromley Trading Standards, said: ‘Doherty hassled consumers and caused them considerable stress which is unacceptable.’
Thomas Harber, a tree surgeon from West Kingsdown has been fined for misleading an 81-year-old Bromley resident over work required – he pleaded guilty to offences of failing to give a consumer written notice of their cancellation rights and misleading a consumer over the price of work.
The court heard how on 26th October 2009 Harber knocked on the door of the consumer in Hayes Way, and offered to trim a fir tree at the front of their property for £55. The consumer agreed but was not given anything in writing. After twenty minutes Harber knocked on the door again and said the price had gone up to £65 and following further discussion the price went up again to £115.
The consumer, an 81 year-old-man, said he did not have that amount of cash in the house so left to get money from the bank. Harbour followed and within a few minutes of withdrawing the cash Harber approached the man and asked for his money. When given the cash Harber told him it was not enough and asked for more but the consumer refused and Harber left. The work was not completed.
The court fined Mr Harber £500 for misleading the consumer over the price and £200 for failing to give him a notice of his rights to cancel the contract. He was also ordered to pay £650 costs.
On hearing then evidence the court described Harber;’s behaviour as ‘despicable’.
Harber apologised to the court and said he was no longer working.
Phillip Webb, from Bromley, has been ordered to pay fines, costs and compensation of £1,330 by Bromley Magistrates after pleading guilty to charges brought by Bromley Trading Standards.
Trading as Mountfield Landscapes, he had cold called an elderly man in Bromley in February 2009 and pressured him to agree on work to be carried out to repair his fence. The consumer contacted the police and trading standards who then waited for Webb and his friends when they returned for payment for the completed work – there had been no contract paperwork.
The court also heard that on 5th November 2009 whilst trading as Discount Builders and
Decorators Webb and another cold called a consumer in Hayes and offered to carry out repairs to a blocked drain. Again, no paperwork was given to the consumer, in particular details of his right to cancel the contract. On this occasion the work was not completed following the intervention of trading standards.
In this case Bromley Council conceded there was no argument about the fact the work was required but pointed out the purpose of the regulations, namely that by giving a consumer time to think about the quote they can then seek further quotes for the work.
The Court said: ‘Although we are dealing with document offences we take a dim view given that both consumers in these cases were elderly.’
Webb pleaded guilty to two charges of entering into a contract with a consumer without giving the required notice of cancellation rights as required by the Consumer Protection (cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumers home or place or work) Regulations 2008.
He was fined £75 and £90 for each offence, and ordered to pay £950 costs. He agreed to pay back £200 to the Hayes consumer.
Cllr. Peter Morgan, the new Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and Safety and Chairman of the Safer Bromley Partnership said: ‘We will not tolerate such charlatans operating in our borough. We will take whatever action is necessary to deal with criminal builders who prey on unsuspecting householders in this way. I commend the actions of Bromley Trading Standards and also the members of the public who came forward to give evidence. Let’s hope this case will mean there is at least one less rogue trader operating in our borough.’