AN ADVERTISING salesman accused of duping dozens of local shopkeepers is being investigated by trading standards.
Nigel Hallett, who has taken thousands of pounds in orders from numerous Bournemouth and Poole businesses, said he would co-operate with the investigation but insisted traders’ fears were unfounded as they would all get the adverts they paid for.
Business owners complained to Poole trading standards after paying to be included in a ‘Little Black Book’ business directory Mr Hallett was compiling.
It was supposed to be published at the end of last year but nothing has materialised.
Following the complaints, Poole Trading Standards opened an investigation and Wiltshire council is assisting with this by taking statements from businesses in their area with similar complaints.
Several traders in Bournemouth, who handed over money to Mr Hallett more recently, have also voiced fears they may be left out of pocket.
But Bournemouth-based Mr Hallett said the Poole directory would be published within two weeks and the Bournemouth one in June.
He apologised for the delay and said this was because he had suffered health problems. “As a gesture of goodwill I am sending out a written apology to all Poole businesses this week and giving them a free listing on the website, which is live in August.
“I’ve refunded a number of people. I’m an honest person and passionate about helping small businesses.”
Many of the traders who handed over money to Mr Hallett are unconvinced. One Poole trader said: “I have never seen any proofs of the planned editorial so I seriously doubt the book will materialise.
“He told me over a month ago that it would be out in two weeks. I’ve also asked for my money back many times but he’s ignored my requests.”
And another said: “It’s been nearly a year now since he took our money.”
A spokesperson for the Borough of Poole confirmed they were investigating Mr Hallett. A spokesperson for Dorset Police confirmed they had received reports of an alleged scam but said they had assessed it as a civil matter rather than a fraud.
ADVICE TO BUSINESS
Andy Sherriff, of Bournemouth trading standards, said: “We would advise traders to always be cautious when offered something that seems a little too good a true.
"Traders who suggest that they have a unique product may not be telling the complete truth and it’s worth taking a few minutes to check out the background before you commit your cash.
“Just the time it takes to make a cup of tea will allow you to do some checking that may well save you from being parted from your money.”