David Waters jailed for 2 years and 8 months for misleading vulnerable customers
Suffolk businessman, David Waters (71 of Manwick Road, Felixstowe), has today (19 December 2019) received a 32-month custodial sentence.
He has also been banned from being a company director for 10 years and been made the subject of a criminal behaviour order, which prevents him from selling any products in a person’s home and any involvement in a mobility aid company.
His company, Anchor Mobility Ltd, was also fined a total of £15,000 for 15 counts of unfair commercial practice, following a successful prosecution by Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards.
Mr Waters failed to fulfil orders and refused to refund customers in his position as sole director of Anchor Mobility Limited, a company meant to provide life-improving furniture to vulnerable and elderly people.
Instead, many customers received no goods, no refunds and poor customer service. One customer paid over £8,000 for two beds, which were never delivered, and no refund was ever received.
A hearing to consider compensation for victims will take place in the new year.
On 31 October 2019, a jury found Mr Waters and Anchor Mobility Limited guilty on 31 counts following a three week trial at Ipswich Crown Court. Offences including fraudulent trading under the Companies Act 2006, engaging in unfair commercial practices, multiple offences of misleading consumers by taking large deposits with the promise of delivering goods without doing so and failing to refund consumers under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
On sentencing Mr Waters, Judge Peters said:
“This case is about people. The continuing and constant theme in victims’ statements is that these weren’t rich people in large houses who could afford to lose thousands of pounds. These people suffered and can’t afford to buy another chair or bed. They were all left feeling very stupid as a result of being taken in. They shouldn’t feel stupid, they were taken in and they are not alone.
“Any sentence I pass is not of my making – it is of your making, reflecting your culpability, harm and offending. I have read much and been moved by all of it. In my view, the only appropriate sentence is immediate custody.”
Stuart Hughes, the Senior Trading Standards Officer who led the case, said:
“I’m pleased the verdict has adequately recognised the callous attitude Mr Waters exhibited by exploiting elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers. Having heard directly from his victims throughout the trial, I hope this verdict provides them with some satisfaction that justice has been done, and provides Mr Waters with an opportunity to reflect on the serious consequences of his offending.
“His victims paid money in good faith, often up front, for furniture intended to improve their quality of life. Anchor Mobility Limited and David Waters owed their customers a special duty of care, but instead caused vulnerable people great stress, anger and financial loss that they could ill afford.”
Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection, said:
“This has been a case full of despicable actions and my thoughts continue to be with all those who have suffered, both emotionally and financially. Mr Waters will now have to live with the custodial consequences of misleading his customers and abusing his position of power.
“I am grateful to our Trading Standards officers, partner agencies and the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigation Team (East of England, London & South East) for helping bring Mr Waters to justice. We want a level playing field for Suffolk’s honest traders and to help protect the legitimate economy of our county and beyond.”
Waters had been involved in two previous companies which supplied similar products that were prosecuted by Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to nine consumer protection offences as a result of his involvement in Mobility UK Limited. He was sentenced to a financial penalty and was ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution. In 2015, Westminster Recliners Limited pleaded guilty to engaging in an aggressive commercial practice, Waters had been their company secretary but had all offences against him dropped.
Anchor Mobility Limited was a business set up to supply bespoke armchairs and beds targeting elderly and disabled consumers.
In relation to Anchor Mobility Ltd, Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards received several calls and accumulated 26 witnesses, an indication of the scale of this operation. It is calculated that the loss to customers is around £82,000. However, it is likely that many other people have made payments to Anchor Mobility Limited and not received their goods.
Local businesses also lost out to Anchor Mobility Limited, who built up a debt of over £20,000 for lease or rental payments over a six-month period. Waters and his business were eventually locked out of their offices as a result. Furniture manufacturers also suffered by not being paid for products they had made, or lost time which was set aside for production.
If you are concerned about services, goods or products that you have agreed to or purchased on the doorstep, advice is on hand from the national Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.
Notes to editors
If you are planning a significant purchase or hiring a trader, follow these simple steps:
- Don’t engage with people offering services at your door
- Don’t go with the first quote or offer
- Don’t pay up front for goods or services
- Don’t be pressured into signing anything, ask to sleep on it
- Do ask friends and family for recommendations
- Do get multiple quotes for goods and services for comparison
- Do pay by credit card for extra protection
- Do have friends or family present if inviting someone into your home
- It is a criminal offence if a trader does not leave your home when asked
PDFs of Anchor Mobility Ltd brochure and advertising available on request.
Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards began investigating Anchor Mobility Limited since November 2016, when information was received that David Waters, previously of Westminster Recliners Ltd had started a new mobility furniture business.
The National Trading Standards funds the Regional Investigation Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams.