Wiltshire County Council’s Trading Standards Department, with assistance from the OFT, bring the first case under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This is the first Order to be granted under the new Regulations, which give Trading Standards officers new powers of enforcement. One in the eye for rogue traders? Zoë Gaye reports.
Topic: Consumer protection
Who: Office of Fair Trading
When: July 2008
Law stated as at: 14 August 2008
Jimmy Stockwell (also known as James Stockwell and James Cooper) and his son Shane Stockwell (the "Defendants") provided general handy-man services for members of the public in the Salisbury area.
Local residents who used the defendants' services passed on a number of complaints to the defendants themselves and to Wiltshire County Council Trading Standards Department. The subjects of the complaints included aggressive behaviour, poor quality work, exaggerating the level of work required on properties, denying customers their cancellation rights and intimidating customers to pay up. The complaints stretched back over a number of years.
The number of complaints made to Wiltshire County Council's Trading Standards team presented them with an opportunity to enlist case support from the Office of Fair Trading and bring a case against the Defendants for breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the "CPUT Regulations").
The hearing took place at Salisbury Country Court on 31 July 2008, Cutler J made a final Order in the same terms as an Interim Order that was granted on 8 July. The judge ordered the defendants not to breach the CPUT Regulations and in particular:
- not to act in a misleading manner by presenting false information or presenting it in a manner likely to deceive the consumer;
- not to make contracts away from business premises without first notifying the consumer in writing of their cancellation rights;
- not to act in an aggressive manner in attempting to get the consumer to enter into a contract or to obtain payment; and
- not to act without professional diligence.
The defendants were also ordered not to act negligently in providing home handy man services.
If the defendants disobey the terms of the Order, which lasts until 31 December 2010, then they face being found in contempt of court. The punishment for contempt of court is a fine, imprisonment or both.
This is the first Order to be granted under the new CPUT Regulations which have given Trading Standards Officers new powers of enforcement and which enable them to take action in relation to, amongst other matters, aggressive selling tactics.
Why this matters:
This is the first time that the CPUT Regulations have been put into practice through the courts. The CPUT Regulations provide a stronger regime to protect customers from rogue traders.
Let's hope this case marks the first of many against the Arthur Daleys of this world. But let's also hope that the enforcement authorities continue to take a proportionate view on prosecution, bearing in mind the extremely broad scope of some offences under the Regulations, which potentially catch many quite legitimate and established business practices.
Osborne Clarke, Bristol