Trader convicted of misleading practices in St Austell home improvement work

A trader carrying out guttering and fascia work to properties in St Austell has been convicted of a range of consumer protection offences following an investigation by Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team.

Anthony Mark Blackburn of The Ride, Plymouth (trading as A&B Property Maintenance), pleaded guilty to six offences under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 at Bodmin Magistrates Court on Thursday 4 July.

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The court heard that Blackburn had been cold-calling at homes in the Lower and Higher Woodside area of St Austell in July 2018. He had persuaded two home-owners to have their fascia and guttering replaced.

One of the customers had expressed concern that the work had started earlier than expected, and that they did not yet have the money to pay. Despite this, Mr Blackburn had been pursuing payment for the work, and the customer reported his concerns to the Cornwall Council.

Cornwall Council Trading Standards officers went to the address and found Blackburn undertaking work at another property. Inspecting some of the business paperwork for A&B Property Maintenance the officers found that it gave details of offices in both Plymouth and Truro – and subsequent enquiries showed that neither of these addresses were being used by the business.

In court Blackburn admitted three charges of using misleading paperwork related to his business address, two charges of failing to give written information about a customer’s right to cancel within 14 days and one charge related to being misleading about consumer rights.

Trading Standards Case Officer, Leanne McLean said: “Along with the misleading paperwork, Blackburn had failed to give his customers written information about their right to cancel the contract within 14 days; a key legal protection for consumers.

“Whilst the work wasn’t necessarily of poor quality, his conduct in starting the work earlier than agreed and then pushing for payment, was not professional and caused significant distress to one of the customers.”

Blackburn was ordered to pay a combination of £1,610 in costs and fines.

Councillor Rob Nolan, Cornwall's Portfolio holder for the Environment and Public Protection, said: “Our Trading Standards Officers continue to work in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police to tackle those who use unfair and misleading business practices to target our local communities. Traders operating in this way damage the reputation of our reliable and trustworthy businesses. We would always recommend people do not agree to work following a cold call.”

Cornwall Council Trading Standards always recommends seeking a number of quotes before agreeing to work, and to consider using Buy With Confidence approved businesses, who have been audited and accredited by Trading Standards – visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk for more information.