A Daventry man is among six people from a Peterborough firm to be sentenced next January after the business carried out aggressive selling to vulnerable elderly customers.
Joel Henry, of Bluebell Close in Woodford Halse, admitted a charge commercial malpractice under the Consumer Protection Act.
The charge Henry faced was that on February 10, 2016 as a trader, he engaged in aggressive commercial practices that significantly impaired or were likely to significantly impair the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to a product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence.
Namely, he demonstrated a product to an elderly, vulnerable consumer suffering from dementia for two-and-a-half hours; demonstrated to a vulnerable and elderly consumer knowing she was suffering from dementia, in breach of the vulnerable consumer policy; and made a sale to a vulnerable and elderly consumer knowing she was suffering from dementia.
Henry thereby caused or was likely to cause a consumer to take a transactional decision they would not have taken otherwise.
The five other people who will appear in court on January 8 next year are Life Comfort Products' directors Geoffrey and Jacqueline Turner, senior officers David Turner and Tim Clark, and employee Brendan Donahue.
The firm itself will also be sentenced in January. They had all indicated not guilty pleas at a magistrates’ court hearing earlier in the year but changed their plea at Crown Court.
Senior staff at Life Comfort Products admitted the aggressive sales techniques at the Peterborough Crown Court hearing.
The family-run firm sells chairs and beds to elderly residents who may have mobility issues.
Aggressive sales from the firm included giving misleading information to customers, such as telling them chairs were made at their family-owned Peterborough factory.
Sales staff also ignored no cold calling stickers, made appointments when asked not to and even disrupted mealtimes and other commitments for the customers.
Directors Jacqueline and Geoffrey Turner and the firm itself admitted designing a script and training canvassers to increase pressure on customers to agree to a demonstration.
Clarke admitted targeting addresses clearly identifiable as being elderly residents’ homes and instructing staff to ignore no cold calling zones.
David Turner admitted quoting a high price for a bed for a customer - and then offering it for considerably less if ordered on the same day.
Donahue pleaded guilty to writing out cheques for vulnerable customers who were physically unable to do it themselves and misleading consumers over the medical benefits of products on offer.
Peter Gell, head of regulatory services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards, said: “We are pleased with how the court cases are progressing so far.
“Our trading standards officers began looking into this case back in June 2016 following several complaints from members of the public about how customers had been treated by Life Comfort Products staff. We took these allegations seriously and began a 14-month investigation, collating evidence which formed the basis of these cases.”
Six other members of staff - Michael Dodd, Stephen Millward, Sally Shepherd, James Puttrell, Michael Driscoll and Mohammed Hure were listed to appear at Peterborough Crown Court last Thursday.
Shepherd, Millward, Dodd and Puttrell all accepted cautions for offences surrounding sales.
Hure and Driscoll accepted an enterprise act undertaking - which Peterborough Crown Court was told was the equivalent of a civil caution.
They had all faced charges, but not guilty verdicts were officially recorded at the court hearing yesterday.
A 13th man who has been charged in connection with the firm is due to attend Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, November 22.