A director of a cold calling home improvements firm who admitted to misleading customers has been ordered to compensate them in full.
Andrew Kevin Dack, director of Billingham-based Improve IT UK (Home Improvements), appeared before Teesside Crown Court today (December 20).
The court heard the company, now defunct, was responsible for sub-standard work on driveways at a string of properties across the north.
An independent surveyor found the work to be so poor that the only fix is to dig up the driveways and start again, which will cost more than customers have already paid.
Dack, 37, faced 18 charges relating to matters including gross overcharging and falsely stating there was no right to cancel agreements.
The company website also falsely claimed customers would benefit from a 10-year guarantee.
The trading standards teams from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Durham County Council worked together to bring the case to court.
This followed a series of complaints from unhappy customers, all aged over 60, including a Barnard Castle woman who was quoted £20,000 for patio and roof works.
A bank clerk raised the alarm with trading standards after the woman requested a number of large bank transfers in a short period.
Dack pleaded guilty to six charges under the Fraud Act 2006 and 12 charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
In mitigation, his defence said that Mr Dack had no previous convictions and had put his faith in sub-contractors to complete the work. He felt genuinely sorry for the complainants and wanted to compensate them.
He was ordered to pay £18,800 to compensate the customers in full and was handed a 12 month sentence, suspended for 12 months, with 240 hours unpaid work. Mr Dack was also given an electronic curfew.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Mr Dack and the company employed all manner of shady practices as they systematically misled their customers to a shameful extent. They cold-called at their homes, dishonestly informed them that there was no cooling off period, then grossly overcharged them for work.
“If that wasn’t bad enough, each of the finished jobs bore no resemblance to what was promised, and were completed to such a horrendous standard that customers are going to have to fork out more than they’ve already paid to put it right. A number of those who have complained have also described attempts to grossly overcharge, with quotes starting sky high and falling rapidly. In one case in Thornaby, our Trading Standards officers were able to intervene early and the contract was then cancelled.
“Our advice for residents looking for major home improvements like a new driveway or roof is to say no to cold callers. Instead, get at least three quotes, research the companies involved, listen to recommendations from friends and family, and don't be rushed into a decision. In addition, do not pay a large deposit – large sums should only change hands once a job has been completed satisfactorily.”
For help and advice from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards team, call 01642 526560 or email [email protected]