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Home Improvement Company Fined £36,000


8:09am 28th February 2014

A home improvement company with sales offices in Dorset has been fined £36,000 for making unwanted cold calls.

Apple Group Holdings Limited, who also trades under the name Larkin Windows and Conservatories, were prosecuted by Dorset Trading Standards.

The company pleaded guilty to 11 offences, 6 were for making sales visits to people's homes when they were told not to, and 5 were for making persistent unwanted telephone sales calls.

They were sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates' Court (26 February 2014) and fined a total of £36,663 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,329.

The court heard about complaints that went back to May 2012 that had been investigated by trading standards officers. There were several instances where written advice was given to the company about the improvements that needed to be made. Complaints continued to be received by the trading standards service, the citizens' advice consumer helpline and the information commissioner's office.

In mitigation the company outlined steps they had taken to improve matters including buying software from the telephone preference service to properly screen for numbers that should not be called, new procedures for sales staff and customer complaint procedures.

During sentencing the chair of magistrates, Mike Owen, took into account the company's lack of previous convictions and their early guilty plea but pointed to the lack of improvement despite intervention by trading standards. He said: "We believe that this shows a culture of disregard for consumers' rights and a systemic lack of managerial control."

Ivan Hancock, trading standards service manager for Dorset County Council, said:

"Consumer law gives people a very clear right to expect that businesses selling goods and services will not visit them or telephone them when they have made it clear they do not want a sales call. Of course we understand that mistakes can be made but any sales force should be working to systems to ensure their business is not a nuisance or unnecessary inconvenience to people in their own homes."

Cllr Peter Finney, the county council's Cabinet member for community services, said:

"Unwanted sales calls can be an irritation to everyone but particularly distressing to more vulnerable residents or those living alone. Our trading standards officers regularly intervene with consumer problems like this by using advice and guidance to put businesses on the right track. Where that advice is ignored and problems continue to be a concern to Dorset residents then formal action is always a consideration."

If any Dorset business is unsure of their legal requirements I would urge them to contact trading standards for advice and guidance using the trading standards business advice line on 01305 224702."

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