A home improvements firm has been fined £36,663 by a court after admitting it harassed householders.
Sales tactics of Dorset-based Apple Group Holdings Limited were described in court as a ‘persistent nuisance’, which caused suffering for elderly and vulnerable people.
Weymouth magistrates heard that the firm continuously cold-called residents over the phone and at their doorstep.
The company, which pleaded guilty to six counts relating to cold-calling at peoples’ houses and five counts of cold-calling people over the phone, was also ordered to pay £1,129 in costs and a £200 victim surcharge.
The case, which related to nine householders living in Weymouth, Portland and West Parley, was brought by Dorset Trading Standards.
Ivan Hancock, Dorset County Council’s trading standards service manager, told the court the string of offences breached the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 Act and related to procedures not being followed correctly between July 2012 and July 2013.
He said: “This is a matter of nuisance and distress being caused to consumers.”
Representing Apple Group Holdings, Jon Payne said the company didn’t buy information from the Telephone Preference Service ‘from the outset’ but does now.
He said: “These are 11 charges relating to 2.5 million visits.”
Magistrates fined Apple Group Holdings £3,333 for each of the 11 counts – £36,663 in total.
Mike Owen, chairman of the bench, said: “We believe that this shows a culture of disregard for consumers’ rights and a systemic lack of managerial control.”
‘We take our reputation seriously’
ANDY Downes, operations manager at Apple Home Improvements, part of Apple Group Holdings, said the company is working hard to correct ‘mistakes’ it had made in the past.
He said: “Apple Home Improvements is a well established and professional local company with ambitious expansion plans which has resulted in a rapid increase in turnover and staff in recent years. Employing local staff, we take our reputation and customers’ perception of our business seriously.
“We have made some mistakes in the past but have worked hard to put these right. Apple has worked hard with the Trading Standards, the ICO and TPS to ensure that we raise our standards, improve our processes and meet our obligations now and in the future. We are pleased that the court has recognised that we have made substantial progress in recent times.
“Apple will continue to ensure ongoing future compliance and apologise for any inconvenience or disruption we may have caused during our legitimate and well intentioned marketing practices.”