Gateshead Council has secured an enforcement order under the Enterprise Act 2002 to limit the behaviour of two home improvement companies which have been the subject of more than a hundred complaints from the public.
The local authority said it was “a little-used piece of legislation which gives Trading Standards powers to obtain court orders against businesses that carry on illegal and unlawful business practices”.
Gateshead said ASC Home Improvements Ltd had been the subject of numerous complaints “including pressuring customers to enter into a contract by offering a 'discount' for a limited period of time, requiring large deposits to be made with no work ever carried out, failing to refund customers when they have asked for their money back, work left incomplete and poor standards of workmanship”.
Its director Adam Crake was also a director of Aspire UK Home Improvements Ltd., a company which the council said had recently also been the subject of similar complaints from unhappy customers.
Gateshead applied to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority for permission to apply for an urgent court order against Mr Crake, director of ASC Home Improvements Ltd and Aspire UK Home Improvements Ltd, and Sarah Callaghan who at the time was a director of ASC Home Improvements but who later resigned from that position.
The local authority successfully obtained an enforcement order this week against Adam Crake and his two companies. Ms Callaghan agreed to sign an undertaking to the court lasting two years.
The order and undertakings prohibit the defendants from breaching various pieces of legislation, such as:
- using unfair trading practices such as pressuring a customer to enter into a contract;
- failing to respond to customer complaints;
- making false or misleading statements to consumers;
- using unfair contract terms requiring large deposits;
- omitting information regarding particular contract terms;
- making false statements to persuade consumers to pay the full amount before delivery;
- delaying in refunding consumers following cancellation;
- failing to perform the service with reasonable care and skill.
If the order or undertakings are breached, then the defendant responsible will be in contempt of court.
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection at Gateshead, said: “We have been almost overwhelmed with complaints about these two companies and it was clear that we needed to act as quickly to halt their unlawful practices.
“We therefore took the unusual step of making the application without informing the defendants in a bid to speed up the process.”
She added: “People have paid thousands and thousands of pounds to these two companies with little to show other than further demands for more money before work can begin.
"I'm pleased that the courts have made these legal orders which will protect consumers and hopefully stop these two companies from trading unlawfully.”