North East Lincolnshire Council

Council prosecutes cold-calling duo

Two brothers from Doncaster have been given a court bill of more than £3,000 for fraud and consumer offences after breaking doorstep trading rules.

Micheal and Patrick Harty, 20 and 31, of Doncaster Road, Askern, pleaded guilty to a series of offences relating to driveway works they’d carried out in Grimsby in February and March 2017.

They made £15,900 by convincing homeowners in the Scartho area to pay between £2,000 and £5,200 in cash for work on their drives.

The pair had cold-called for work with another accomplice who did not attend court at five addresses under the company name Smoothstone.

They used pressure selling tactics, demanded payment in cash and at one property started work before the homeowner agreed to having it done.

The pair failed to:

  • Provide the victims with a written contract
  • Provide the victims with written details of their business trading address from where customers could obtain receipts or register  a claim against the guarantee (that was only verbally offered) and was not confirmed in written form
  • Provide the victims with written details of their rights of cancellation where there is a legal duty to do so.

One victim was told they were opening a showroom in Short Street, Cleethorpes, and she could collect a receipt and guarantee from there, but there is no showroom .

Promotional leaflets were given to victims that made it look as though Smoothstone was a reputable firm with offices in York and Leeds.  Logos for Thomson Local and Yell were printed on the flyers but Smoothstone have never advertised with them.

Cllr David Bolton, portfolio holder for Safer Communities and Public Protection, said: “The tactics these cold-callers used are typical of the way rogue traders operate.

“They initially quoted the jobs at extortionate prices and then dropped it significantly, but no written quote or paperwork was given.

“The brothers pressurised their victims into having the work done there and then and paying cash for it.  At one address they even started work before being given direct permission.

“Our advice is clear. Never agree to having work done when you’re cold called.

“If a job does need doing, get at least three quotes from different trades people and take your time to make an informed decision.

“If you need advice on a doorstep traders or want to report a sighting of cold caller activity in your area, visit www.nelincs.gov.uk/scams or call Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.”

In mitigation the pair said it was a new business they had started a couple of weeks before the dates of the offences.  They said they had engaged someone to do the publicity and accepted they should have checked it complied with the regulations before distributing it.

Trading standards manager Neil Clark added: “Micheal and Patrick Harty and a third man were arrested when a trading standards officer from North East Lincolnshire Council spotted a board outside a property where work was being done.

“He visited a number of homes where the suspects had also carried out works and heard a number of complaints and trading regulation breaches.

“None of the customers had been offered contracts as required by law or provided with the relevant cancellation rights that a trader is legally bound to provide.

“Trading standards intervened and stopped one victim handing over more than £5,000 and the three men were arrested.

“Traders must give you a 14 day cooling off period if they call at your home or business and offer to carry out work and the cost of the job is £42 or more. It’s an offence if they don’t.”

In passing sentence the Bench at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court said they were very serious offences, not to be treated lightly.

The court took into account the early guilty pleas ordered each of the two defendants to pay £1,560 (£500 fine, £800 compensation and £260 costs).

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