A rogue trader who tricked residents out of thousands of pounds by offering landscaping, painting and decorating jobs that were never fully completed, has been sentenced to unpaid work.
Ben Stiles (31) of Staverton Road, Werrington, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, fraud by failing to disclose cancellation rights and aggressive practices at a hearing at Peterborough Crown Court on 18 February.
He received a 12 month custodial sentence suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 140 hours unpaid work.
The court granted a Criminal Behaviour Order, preventing Stiles from canvassing for work on the doorstep in the future. The order will run for five years and any breach could lead to up to five years imprisonment, a fine or both.
Officers will monitor any future complaints and take immediate action if any breaches are identified.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards took action against Stiles after receiving reports from a number of concerned Peterborough residents. They began an extended investigation to track down the location of Stiles and to build a case around him.
Officers discovered that during August 2015 and October 2017, Stiles canvassed door to door across Peterborough, offering landscaping or painting and decorating services.
On obtaining work, he persuaded a number of Peterborough residents to pay most of the money up front, often stating he needed to buy materials or pay staff.
After completing no more than preparatory work, Stiles continued to bombard the residents with various excuses and additional requests to elicit further payments, before disappearing without trace. Five Peterborough residents lost over £8,000 as a result of his actions.
Peter Gell, head of regulatory services at Peterborough City Council, said "This prosecution highlights the dedicated work of the Trading Standards team. Tackling rogue traders who prey on residents is a priority for the team. We welcome the court's decision and will continue to take action against dishonest traders."
Councillor Irene Walsh, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “We would like to remind to residents that the vast majority of traders are law-abiding and offer vital services. However, please be vigilant if you are approached for work unexpectedly and report any suspicions to us.”
Advice for residents on dealing with suspected rogue traders:
- If you have an unexpected knock on the door, never open it to strangers. Consider installing a door chain and always keep it on
- Never agree to have work done or part with money on your doorstep
- Always get written quotes from at least two traders for any work
- You have 14 days to cancel any purchase of goods or services over £42 that you make in your home
- Keep your home and belongings safe during works
- Check whether traders are members of an approved scheme, such as Safe Local Trades
- Don't agree to any work or sign anything on the spot
- Do not be pressured into having any work carried out
- Discuss any work you feel needs carrying out on your property with a relative or friend who can help you find a reputable trader
- Never pay cash up front and never go to the bank or cash point with a trader
- You don't have to pay in full until you're completely satisfied with the work and you could consider using stage payments throughout the work
- If you think you've been deceived, are concerned about a trader, or have any doubts, call 101 or Citizens Advice Consumer Services on 03454 040506
- If unsure of the visitor’s identity, always ask for their ID first and telephone the company they are purporting to be from. Use the telephone numbers listed in your local directory or provided independently.
If you agree a contract for goods or services in your house, you must be given the following information in writing, otherwise a criminal offence may have been committed:
- The conditions, time limits and procedure for exercising the right to cancel
- The cost of returning the goods
- Evidence of public liability insurance
- If you request the contract to start within the cancellation period, the trader must inform you of any reasonable costs to be paid up until the time of cancellation