Penwortham pensioners were tricked by callous rogue trader

A blind elderly man who is decorated with a British Empire Medal for his service to the country fell victim to a rogue trader, a court has heard.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 8:06 am

Benjamin Smith, 28, of no fixed abode, admits two unfair trading offences over work at the home of the Penwortham couple, who are in their 80s, in December 2018.

He did the work after cold calling them, but failed to provide a cancellation notice to them, or disclose details of his name and address, and had pressured them into handing over £200 for a job which was not complete.

Preston Magistrates’ Court heard a concerned neighbour was so worried about what he was witnessing he filmed the workmen, who spent just 20 minutes doing the job.

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Smith took another elderly victim to a bank, in a previous similar matter

Smith already has extensive convictions including similar offences.

Prosecuting for Lancashire Trading Standards, Nick McNamara said: “ He agreed to let Mr Smith install eaves guards which were to cost £150.

“Additional work was also agreed, including work to the guttering, although it appears that no price was discussed in connection with that element of the job.”

All contracts costing more than £42, which are agreed in a consumer’s home, have a legally enshrined 14-day cooling-off period.

Mr McNamara added: “ The purpose of a cooling-off period is to protect consumers from being ambushed by traders who turn up unannounced and confuse or bully them into agreeing for expensive or unnecessary work to be carried out.”

Towards the end of the job Smith presented a hastily written demand for payment of £600, the court heard. When the victim refused to pay such a large amount Mr Smith dropped the price to £500. But having already paid over £100 for materials at the start of the job, the pensioner told Smith that he was not willing to pay any more until the work was completed.

At that point Smith’s mood suddenly changed and he became more demanding. When the worried pensioner gave in and handed over another £100, the workmen packed up and left, even though it was still daylight and the job was unfinished.

Smith is currently in prison on other matters including a previous trading offence where an elderly victim was taken to the bank to withdraw money.

His sentencing was committed to Preston Crown Court and will take place on February 24.