In case brought by the Trading Standards Service (TSS) of the Department for the Economy, James McCann (32) of Windermere Lodge, Lisburn, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Fraud Act 2006 for committing fraud by false misrepresentation. He received a four-month custodial sentence in respect of each charge, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay £2,500 in compensation to the victim.
In February 2019, a Belfast resident received a flyer through his door advertising the services of ‘Ashwood Landscapes and Drives’. The consumer wanted some gardening work carried out at his property so they rang the mobile number on the flyer and asked for a quotation. Mr McCann visited the consumer that same afternoon and provided them with a quote of £5,000 to complete the agreed work to the driveway and garden. Mr McCann began work on the property immediately by pulling up flagstones on the existing driveway.
Mr McCann then asked for a cash advance of £4,000 from the complainant after informing them that he needed the money to purchase materials and pay his labourers. He provided receipts for the cash sums taken and promised to return the next day to continue with the work.
However, Mr McCann failed to return to the property. The consumer attempted to contact Mr McCann using the mobile numbers on the flyer only to discover that they were no longer in use. Mr McCann had also used a false name on the receipts given to the consumer which left the consumer unable to seek redress from the trader.
Despite having paid £4,000, no materials were ever delivered and apart from the lifting and stacking of some flagstones in the front garden and some initial groundwork, none of the rest of the list of work agreed with Mr McCann was ever started.
When interviewed by TSS, Mr McCann denied any connection with the business or having ever been to the address at which the fraudulent actions took place. TSS were, however, able to connect Mr McCann to the fraudulent actions.
Alison Gilchrist of the Trading Standards Service said: “This case shows how consumers should be wary of responding to flyers, no matter how professional they look. In many doorstep crime cases, the flyers contain false information about the trader’s contact details, leaving them impossible to trace when something goes wrong.”
Trading Standards Service offers the following tips for employing a trader:
Where possible, choose a trader who has been recommended by local family or friends.
Never hire a trader who comes to the door looking for work.
Check with Trade Associations to find approved traders in your area and use their arbitration schemes if disputes arise.
Get quotes from at least three traders to compare prices.
Ask for the quote in writing to ensure that the price doesn’t go up afterwards.
Don’t pay until the job is finished.
Finally, don’t be afraid to say no. It’s your home and your decision.
Anyone who believes they have been similarly affected should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.