Carpet cleaning director guilty of fraud
Posted on: 24 October 2016
A cleaning company director who scammed the elderly by offering to clean their carpets for a bargain price before massively hiking up the cost has been given a 12-month suspended sentence.
At Exeter Crown Court on Wednesday Adam Joseph Vallier, 34, of Hannington Road, Pokesdown, Bournemouth, was also ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service.
Vallier had been found guilty of unfair trading and fraud after a five-day trial on September 23.
During sentencing Recorder A S Vaitilingam QC praised investigators from Devon and Somerset Trading Standards for bringing the prosecution and branded Vallier’s business practices ‘shabby’ and ‘insidious.’
Vallier traded under A Star Carpet Cleaning Ltd and Premier Carpet Cleaning Ltd from addresses in Dorset and Bournemouth during 2014 and 2015.
He travelled around the country, including Newton Abbot, Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton, Worthing and West Sussex, targeting predominantly elderly householders and enticing them with a ‘special offer’ to clean two carpets for £19.
Once he or his operatives got their foot in the door, the price then rose by up to £200 – a scam known as ‘bait and switch’.
Vallier, the ‘controlling mind’ of the businesses, was also found guilty of falsely claiming membership of the National Carpet Cleaning Association.
He wrote and published bogus customer testimonials to give the impression that he was an honest trader, and falsely claimed that his operatives were qualified when they were not.
The consumers were not adequately told of their rights to a ‘cooling off’ period during which they could cancel the contract.
This was despite Vallier receiving advice from a local authority about fair trading on at least two occasions.
The prosecution said that the ‘policy was not to bring the right to cancel to the attention of the consumer in anyway.’
The work itself was not professionally done with items of furniture not moved, with his employees working around them.
Vallier traded under similar names to established business which then bore the brunt of complaints from disgruntled customers.
The prosecution said: “The barrier is the front door. The never-ending promotion of £19 gets them inside. This was a ruse to break down the barrier.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Councils Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: “Vallier was more concerned with extracting as much money as he could out of his victims than actually cleaning their carpets.
“I’m pleased that, thanks to the consumers being prepared to give evidence, we’ve been able to bring him to justice”.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The Buy With Confidence scheme, which Devon and Somerset Trading Standards help to run, is a good way to find honest and reliable local traders and avoid being ripped off.”
“We would advise anyone who is considering having work done in their home to go to our Buy with Confidence website to find a list of approved traders in their area.”
Posted in: Community | Environment