A BUSINESS which cold-called two elderly Warwickshire residents and sold them damp proof work that was unnecessary and defective has been ordered to pay over £21,000 after being successfully prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) Trading Standards.
In November 2019 a Rugby resident was told that there was damp in the walls of her home by a representative of Weatherproof UK Ltd who had visited her following an unsolicited phone call. The resident agreed to pay £1,995 for damp proof work to fix the problem and to carry out some repointing.
The following month, a Lillington resident also received a cold call from Weatherproof UK Ltd stating that there was penetrating damp in the local area and offering a free no obligation survey. The resident agreed to the survey and was told that his property also had rising damp. He agreed to work being carried out costing £1,750.
Warwickshire Trading Standards launched an investigation after receiving complaints from both residents.
Trading Standards Officers employed an independent Chartered Building Surveyor who concluded that neither home showed signs of damp that would have required the installation of a damp proof course – and that both properties already had existing damp proof courses.
The surveyor also concluded that the work done would not have created a fully bonded and continuous damp proof barrier – and was therefore defective and below the standard expected from a competent contractor.
Both residents signed contracts for the work at their home addresses, so should have been afforded a 14 day cooling off period during which they could change their minds and cancel. However, in both cases they were directed by a Weatherproof UK Ltd representative to sign a document waiving this right, thus preventing them from exercising their consumer rights.
WCC community safety spokesman Coun Andy Crump said: “I’m delighted that our Trading Standards Service was able to take this action to protect Warwickshire residents and in this case help them to obtain compensation.
“We strongly advise homeowners not to buy goods or services from unexpected doorstep callers or people who cold call on the phone.”
At Coventry Magistrates Court, Weatherproof UK Ltd was sentenced and fined £8,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £9,980, victim compensation of £3,330 and a victim surcharge of £181 – a total of £21,491.
Magistrates commented that there were aggravating features that made the offence more serious.
The victims were both elderly and vulnerable, yet in 2017 the company had been advised by Staffordshire County Council specifically in relation to vulnerable customers. This advice concerned the company’s responsibilities for self-employed contractors, giving people time to change their minds and alter their decisions and that there was clearly no effective training of workers.
In mitigation, Mr O’Brien, representing Weatherproof UK Ltd, stated that his client had no previous convictions and the company had taken full responsibly and had put steps in place to ensure this did not happen again.
At an earlier hearing held at Coventry Magistrates Court, Weatherproof UK Ltd pleaded guilty to four charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/consumeradvice for advice on finding a good trader.
To make a consumer complaint, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.