Devon cabbie wins Hero Award

Posted on: 30 June 2017

A Devon taxi driver, who stood up for an elderly couple being preyed on by gang of rogue traders, has been honoured with a Hero Award.

Chris Smith, 37, owner of Black Swan Taxis, Dawlish, was awarded the Chartered  Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Hero Award at their annual conference on Wednesday 28 June.

He was nominated by the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service for his ‘outstanding contribution to consumer protection’ when he intervened to prevent doorstep traders from ripping off an elderly couple in March.

The gang had quoted the couple £170 for cutting down and removing a tree – but after completing the work they demanded £700 which the couple didn’t have at home, so the lady called Black Swan Taxis to take her to the bank.

“The second I got there something didn’t ring true, and I could tell that my customers where distressed,” said Chris.

“The guys doing the work didn’t seem very professional and I’ve known these customers for a few years. They don’t have many visitors.”

Once in the taxi she told Chris she had to withdraw more money out of the bank because the rogue traders had upped the price by more than 300 per cent.

Chris said: “I was really angry that an elderly couple who have worked hard all their lives to save some money for their retirement were being were being taken advantage of and felt threatened on their own property. I decided not to go to the bank and persuaded her to call the police.

“I was worried about her husband, who had stayed behind with the workmen, so I offered to come back to their home and wait with them until the police arrived.”

He said the traders ‘were very keen’ on him leaving, and tried to coax the couple to go into the house to hand over money.

Quick-thinking Chris pretended he needed to stay and settle the couple’s taxi account, and brought enough time to enable police and trading standards officers to arrive.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service officers told the doorstep traders the contract was unenforceable and they were told to leave.

Chris added: “Quite a few of our clients are elderly and vulnerable and if we don’t see some of our regulars for a while, we check on them from time to time, to see if everything is okay.

“I am very proud to have been nominated and to receive this award, but it was always about stopping a vulnerable couple who felt threatened from losing a considerable amount of savings.”

Councillor John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council, said:

Cllr John Hart

“This award is thoroughly deserved. Without sparing a thought for his own safety, Chris recognised that an elderly couple were distressed, needed help and he acted.

“His example is an important reminder that we all have a collective responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Please report any suspicious activity to the Police on 101 or Trading Standards on 03454040506. If you are concerned that someone is at immediate risk of serious harm, always call 999.

To learn more about scams and doorstep crime, please click here.

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