A trader who travelled the country offering to clean householder’s carpets, including that of a vulnerable dementia sufferer, for rock-bottom prices before hiking his charges by up to 5,400 per cent has plead guilty to seven offences.
On 18th November, 2015 at Exeter Magistrates Court, just before a three day trial was scheduled to start, Mark Dudley of Humber Road, Ferndown, changed his pleas to guilty on four offences under the Fraud Act and three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
All the offences related to either dishonestly failing to disclose a consumers right to cancel or inviting them to purchase the services at one price before substituting a different, vastly higher price – a practice known as “Bait and Switch”.
Dudley variously traded as MD Cleaning Services Limited, Compact Cleaning Services and Dudley Cleaning Services from addresses in Dorset in 2014.
The court heard that he travelled around the country including Devon, Somerset, Cornwall and Gloucester operating a carpet cleaning business.
Consumers were telephoned out of the blue with an offer to clean their carpets at a very low price of £20.
But when Dudley came to call the offered price was not available and instead far higher prices of up to £1,100 were charged.
In one case Dudley charged an elderly lady who had Dementia around £400, even though her carpets had been cleaned the previous day by another trader.
The consumers were not adequately told of their rights to a “cooling off” period during which they could cancel the contract.
In addition the court heard that the work was not professionally done with items of furniture not moved, with Dudley working around them.
Protecting vulnerable consumers and cracking down on scams is a high priority for The Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.
Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: ”This trader was more concerned with extracting as much money as he could out of his victims than actually cleaning their carpets.
“I’m pleased that, thanks to the consumers being prepared to give evidence, we’ve been able to bring him to justice”.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The Buy With Confidence scheme, which Devon and Somerset Trading Standards help to run, is a good way to find honest and reliable local traders and avoid being ripped off.”
The court ordered Dudley to remain on bail, report to the probation service and return to court on 15 December for sentencing.
You can find members via the Buy With Confidence Website at https://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/
Follow our advice on how to protect yourself from scams at: http://www.devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk/. If you think you have been a victim of a scam you can report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 or report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040