Gardener Jailed For Misleading Customers

A gardener who misled a Dorset consumer, and who made false claims on his leaflets, has been jailed following a prosecution by Dorset County Council's Trading Standards Service.

On 24 February at Dorchester Crown Court , David Benham, aged 45, of Kimmeridge Avenue, Poole, was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison having previously pleaded guilty to three offences against the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008). 

His offences were failing to give a consumer a seven-day cooling off period for gardening work he carried out at her Weymouth home, claiming on his leaflets that he had 40 years' experience when he was aged 44 at the time, and claiming that he was registered as a waste carrier to dispose of trade waste. 

The court heard how Benham, who traded as 'Blue Cedar Tree & Garden Services', had called at the house of an 85-year-old lady giving a false name and offered to prune some trees in her garden. He agreed to do the work for £300, but failed to provide any indication of a seven-day cooling off period required by law, and later pressured the lady into paying £500 for the work. 

When Benham returned to the house next door the police were called and after his arrest he was interviewed by a trading standards officer before the case was brought.

In sentencing Benham, His Honour Judge Jarvis said: "Once again you are before the court having targeted elderly and vulnerable people.

"You have had three warnings from trading standards about your conduct and it is an extremely shabby thing to do picking out elderly people who can't stand up to a man like you.” He added that the matter must attract an immediate custodial sentence."

Ivan Hancock, Trading Standards Service manager for Dorset County Council said: "We take offences where elderly or vulnerable people have been the victims of unfair trading extremely seriously. They are a priority for our trading standards team and this custodial sentence illustrates that the courts will also take a tough line.

"We recommend that residents do not deal with cold calling traders who offer to do work on their homes or gardens. Recommendations from friends and neighbours are helpful: getting alternative written quotes is important and do consider looking for a trader who is a member of the Buy with Confidence trader approval scheme. 

"Any responsible trader carrying out work at consumers' homes and wanting to get things right should contact us as we are keen to provide advice on the law to those that need it. Just call our business advice line on (01305) 224702."

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