On 22 November 2017, at Bournemouth Crown Court, Darrel Anthony Elswood, aged 36 of Bournemouth, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £4,200 costs having pleaded guilty to an offence of misleading a consumer under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This was in addition to £6,898 compensation he had agreed to pay to three consumers at an earlier hearing. The prosecution was brought by Dorset County Council after investigation by their Trading Standards team.
Mr Elswood was the director of National Drainage Solutions Ltd (Company number 09642586) that was based at 9 Nimrod Way, Ferndown; a company that has since been struck off by Companies House.
The company had been undertaking drainage work at Thornford, Sherborne, Dorset in early February 2016. At one address the company had ‘cold called’ on a resident and although the owner was not aware of any issues with her drains, she was persuaded that work was required. They eventually charged her a total £5,712 which included £540 to replace a manhole cover. Expert evidence showed that a reasonable total price would have been £1,440 and that not all of the work detailed in the invoices had been carried out.
Elswood pleaded guilty to the offence on the basis that it was attributable to his neglect as a director and Judge Johnson, prosecuting, accepted this. Sentencing, the judge said that in such cases the public were entitled to rely on accurate information from the company and he told Elswood, “On your watch your employees or franchisees had let your company down and you had failed to have the checks and balances required, and neglected in your duty.”
He also said that such cases caused huge distress to the victims involved.
The victim said in her impact statement that the episode had left her feeling cross and that “I now don’t trust people as I once did.”
Richard Herringshaw, principal trading standards officer at Dorset County Council said, “I am pleased with this result, especially for the three consumers that Mr Elswood agreed to compensate. Traders who mislead consumers while carrying out work at their homes continues to be a problem and causes significant loss and worry. This is a priority area of work for our trading standards team and we will continue to take formal action in appropriate cases. Anyone who suspects they may have been scammed in a similar way should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service is the first point of contact for anyone wishing to complain about a business, or wanting to know what their rights are. All complaints from Dorset residents are assessed by the trading standards service to see if they should be investigated further.
Trading Standards’ advice to householders is that if any trader ‘cold calls’ or wants you to make a quick decision then remember you are in control and can just tell them you need time to think about it. Get some advice before you decide what to do.
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