A businessman has been banned from selling fish or seafood in Lancashire after his firm pressured elderly people into buying hundreds of pounds’ worth.
Preston Crown Court took the unusual step of issuing the three-year ban after hearing how Peter Carroll’s firm, P Carroll Fishers, based in Durham, struck in Lancashire in 2015, with several vulnerable elderly people scammed into buying overpriced fresh and frozen fish they couldn’t store or eat. It is thought to be the first time a trader has been hit with such a ban in Lancashire.
The firm’s victims included 85-year-old Ashton pensioner Marion Johnson, who was told the firm would make up a “small pack” for £24 - but when she checked her receipt she was charged £204.
Marion and her husband Alan, 88, were tricked into buying almost 10 times what they asked for - and had to pay £104 for a second freezer to store the 30 packets of fish.
Carroll was the driver on each occasion, the court was told.
Imposing a 12-month term, suspended for two years, Judge Sara Dodd said he must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,138 compensation to his victims, as well as £4,500 costs and a £100 surcharge.
Lancashire Trading Standards launched a probe after receiving several complaints in Ashton, Accrington and Rossendale.
Carroll, 49, of Sycamore Road, Kimbleworth, Chester-le-Street, Durham, admitted engaging in unfair commercial practice by not telling Mrs Johnson of her right to cancel the contract.
The trader also admitted three further counts of engaging in unfair commercial practice, and one of aggressive commercial practice by delivering fish he had described as ‘pensioner packs’ to an elderly woman, then demanding £204 for it.
He also admitted making a misleading omission by failing to disclose the price to customers.
Kim Obrusik, prosecuting, said: “It is the prosecution case that the defendant’s business operates in such a way that consumers, generally older people, are left with significant quantities of fish which they did not want and which they do not feel able to do anything about afterwards.
“The incidents in this case are not the behaviour of the defendant himself but he bears responsibility for the actions of his employees when acting in the course of their employment. The Crown say in particular that the repeated failure to give cancellation rights demonstrate that this is not rogue activity, but is the normal working practice of the business.”
She described how a 76-year-old woman was told her neighbour had sent him round to sell some fish and was made to buy a £112 bag.
A 71-year-old woman who agreed to buy seven packs of kippers after being approached on her doorstep had been charged £404 when she checked her statement.
A 79-year-old woman was charged £102 for two carrier bags full of fish she was told she had ordered.
And an 83-year old woman who was promised a “£5 pensioner’s special pack” she was made to pay £176 for fish she had told the men she did not want.
Nick McNamara, of Lancashire Trading Standards, said: “We are constantly on the lookout for new ways to tackle doorstep crime.
“This is the first time our Trading Standards has taken out a criminal behaviour order against a door-to-door scammer and we hope it sends out a clear message to all rogue traders that Lancashire is not a good place to do business.”