Rogue traders caught by new powersFirst case of formal reprimand for hard sell

01 August 2008

Two people outside a court

Two rogue traders have become the first to be hit by new powers designed to protect consumers from dodgy selling tactics.

Jimmy Stockwell and his son Shane Stockwell (shown right) were ordered by a judge yesterday at Salisbury County Court to comply with consumer protection rules. 

If they breach the order, which lasts until 31 December, 2010, they face going to jail for contempt of court.

Hard sell

The order is the first to be granted under new powers given to trading standards officers (TSOs) in May this year.

The powers allow TSOs to take action when consumers complain they were pressured into signing up for a product or service.

The Stockwells, of Douglas Haig Road, Salisbury, were going door-to-door offering to do odd jobs, such as roof repairs or gardening, for residents in Salisbury.

Denied rights

But consumers complained to Wiltshire TSOs that the Stockwells had repeatedly denied customers their cancellation rights. 

Customers also said the men had exaggerated how much work needed to be done on a property, and had done shoddy repairs and intimidated people into paying up. One complainant even said they'd been taken to a cashpoint and told to get out money to pay for a job.

Complaints to TSOs about the Stockwells, who also go by the name Cooper, stretched back over several years. The pair are known to police in Wiltshire.

Victory

Andrew Tilley, a principal TSO at Wiltshire, said:'This is a great victory for consumers. It's the first time we've been able to to formally tackle aggressive behaviour against consumers. And in this case - as with many - the victims were elderly and vulnerable people.'

Which? worked with the government on the implementation of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which gave the new powers to TSOs.

Which? lawyer Chris Warner said:'Seeing these regulations enforced for the first time is a real shot across the bow for people who think they can get away with abusing their customers. 

'The new regulations have teeth - if these guys don’t comply with the order they could face contempt of court proceedings and could end up in prison. 

'We'd like to see the regulations go a step further so people that have been left out of pocket by unlawful behaviour are automatically reimbursed, rather than having to go through the small claims court.'