Suffolk businessman David Waters has received a 32-month custodial sentence and been banned from being a company director for 10 years following a successful prosecution by Suffolk County Council Trading Standards.
He has also been made the subject of a criminal behaviour order and his company, Anchor Mobility Ltd, was fined a total of £15,000 for 15 counts of unfair commercial practice.
Waters failed to fulfil orders and refused to refund customers in his position as sole director of the company.
Instead, many customers received no goods, no refunds and poor customer service. One customer paid more than £8,000 for two beds, which were never delivered, and no refund was ever received.
A hearing to consider compensation for victims will take place in the new year.
On sentencing Waters, Judge Peters said: “This case is about people. The continuing and constant theme in victims’ statements is that these weren’t rich people in large houses who could afford to lose thousands of pounds. These people suffered and can’t afford to buy another chair or bed. They were all left feeling very stupid as a result of being taken in. They shouldn’t feel stupid, they were taken in and they are not alone.
“Any sentence I pass is not of my making – it is of your making, reflecting your culpability, harm and offending. I have read much and been moved by all of it. In my view, the only appropriate sentence is immediate custody.”
Stuart Hughes, the Senior Trading Standards Officer who led the case, said: “I’m pleased the verdict has adequately recognised the callous attitude Mr Waters exhibited by exploiting elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers. Having heard directly from his victims throughout the trial, I hope this verdict provides them with some satisfaction that justice has been done, and provides Mr Waters with an opportunity to reflect on the serious consequences of his offending.
“His victims paid money in good faith, often up front, for furniture intended to improve their quality of life. Anchor Mobility Ltd and David Waters owed their customers a special duty of care, but instead caused vulnerable people great stress, anger and financial loss that they could ill afford.”
Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection, said: “This has been a case full of despicable actions and my thoughts continue to be with all those who have suffered, both emotionally and financially. Mr Waters will now have to live with the custodial consequences of misleading his customers and abusing his position of power.
“I am grateful to our Trading Standards officers, partner agencies and the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigation Team (East of England, London & South East) for helping bring Mr Waters to justice. We want a level playing field for Suffolk’s honest traders and to help protect the legitimate economy of our county and beyond.”