The managers of a business which supplied and fitted walk-in baths to elderly and vulnerable people have admitted to fraud following a prosecution brought by Telford & Wrekin Council Trading Standards.
Walk in Showers and Baths Ltd, its Managing Director Michael Lydon Jenkins and General Manager Teresa Browne admitted the charges after changing their initial ‘not guilty’ pleas during a trial Stafford Crown Court.
The court was told the total of 14 charges admitted on October 4 stemmed from a dishonest scheme to defraud customers who attempted to cancel their contracts and reclaim the deposits paid to the company.
Telford & Wrekin Council Trading Standards officers had received multiple complaints from customers during 2014 and 2015 in what became the council’s largest ever trading standards case. The company advertised nationally and attracted customers from across the UK.
All the offences related to elderly customers who were not given their money back when they tried to cancel the contract during the legal cooling-off period. In the charges admitted, the total amount defrauded from customers came to more than £20,500.
The defendants took deposits of 50% of the contract price. The court heard that one customer who cancelled within 21 hours of signing the contract was told that the goods for their contract had already been ordered, altered and packed ready for dispatch and that the company kept £1,895 of their deposit.
As the fraudulent behaviour went on, the defendants not only started to keep deposits, but they started to demand additional money from customers for services and goods they claimed they had provided.
Investigations by the Council’s Trading Standards officers showed that in every case before the court no goods were ordered before cancellation, that the services claimed to be provided had not and the defendants had lied to these customers to keep their money.
Councillor Richard Overton said: “This shows our Trading Standards officers’ dedication to fighting for vulnerable customers and stamp out fraudulent trading practices. I trust this will serve as a strong warning to companies who think they can get away with defrauding vulnerable and elderly people for financial gain.”
Lydon and Browne will be sentenced next month.