Damp proofing company prosecuted after cold-calling elderly Rugby woman and misselling £2k of shoddy work
The company said it has since taken measures to ensure it doesn't happen again
A damp proofing business has been ordered to pay more £20,000 after taking thousands from two elderly Warwickshire residents who had been misled into believing work was needed on their properties.
In November 2019 an elderly Rugby woman was told 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.
And the following month the company cold-called an elderly Lillington man, 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' - a phenomenon whose existence is disputed by leading industry figures, including Stephen Boniface, former chairman of the construction arm of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
After being convinced of the supposed damp problem, the resident agreed to work being carried out costing £1,750.
Luckily, both residents realised something was amiss and they contacted Warwickshire Trading Standards.
Trading standards officers then employed the services of an expert independent Chartered Building Surveyor who concluded that neither home showed signs of damp that would have required the installation of a damp proof course such as the one installed by Weatherproof UK Ltd.
Both properties were found to already have damp proof courses.
The expert surveyor also concluded that even if the work had been necessary, the work done would not have created a fully bonded and continuous damp proof barrier and was therefore wholly defective and below the standard expected from a reasonably 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.
On the strength of this evidence Warwickshire Trading Standards prosecuted the company.
And at Coventry Magistrates Court on Wednesday June 16, 2021, Weatherproof UK Ltd (1 Mercury Park, Amber Business Centre, Amber Close, Tamworth, Staffordshire B77 4RP) was sentenced and fined £8,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £9,980.61, victim compensation of £3330 and a victim surcharge of £181, a total of £21,491.61.
On sentencing the business, Magistrates said 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 on May 19, 2021, Weatherproof UK Ltd pleaded guilty to four charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, portfolio holder for Community Safety 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.”
For advice on finding a good trader visit: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/consumeradviceTo make a consumer complaint contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 0808 223 1133