The boss of a Derbyshire mobility company has been jailed for one year after pleading guilty to unfair trading which left some elderly victims thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Christopher Carrington, who ran Peak Healthcare Ltd in Chesterfield, used a cold-calling scheme to target customers and made money out of retaining their deposits when they legally cancelled contracts they had signed up for.
He was sentenced at Derby Crown Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to 11 offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The case was brought following an investigation by Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards department.
The court heard that Peak Healthcare Limited cold-called older people living in sheltered accommodation across the country, from Liverpool and Wolverhampton to Birmingham and Leicester.
Peak Healthcare’s staff arranged to visit potential customers to run what they said were ‘sleep clinics’, where they demonstrated products and made sales presentations.
The mainly elderly and vulnerable residents, some aged in their 80s and 90s, were then encouraged to sign up to buy expensive mobility-type products, such as memory foam mattresses and rise-and-recline armchairs.
The business then let its customers down by failing to return customers’ deposits when they legally cancelled their contract, not delivering goods ordered or delivering inferior goods, including a second-hand mattress which cost £1,000.
One 85-year-old victim ordered a bed for £2,324 and the salesman wrote the cheque out for her as her hands made it difficult for her to do it. The order was cancelled the next day but no refund was received.
Derbyshire County Council had been investigating the company, which has now closed down, since 2015.
Carrington was prosecuted because of his role in setting up and running the business.
Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor, Carol Hart, said: “This company targeted older and vulnerable people and failed to trade honestly and fairly, letting customers down and leaving them out of pocket, sometimes by thousands of pounds.
“Crimes like this, where vulnerable people lose significant amounts of money and are let down, can cause lasting damage, both emotionally and financially. We hope this outcome gives some comfort to the victims and their families and sends out a strong message to rogue traders that we will investigate and take action when companies fail to abide by the law.”
Carrington pleaded guilty to 11 charges − that the firm failed to return five deposits totalling £5,770 after the contracts were cancelled legally; that four people didn’t get the goods they had paid for, totalling £7,804.55; and inferior goods totalling £3,309 were received by two other customers.
Sentencing Carrington yesterday, Judge Nirmal Shant QC told him that he “was responsible for the £16,000 taken from these people”.
She added: “It would have been obvious that your customers would be vulnerable and elderly. Typical was a 93-year-old visited in her gated community and convinced to part with £1,797, and who was then given the runaround. The effects of this must have been obvious.”
A further hearing has been set for November to consider the outcome of ‘proceeds of crime’ enquiries.