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Seller Of Counterfeit Phone Cases Convicted

27 February 2014 – Trevor Martin of Buckfastleigh pleaded guilty yesterday to selling counterfeit phone cases via eBay following an investigation by Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Service.

53 year old Mr Martin of Plymouth Road, Buckfastleigh was charged with offences relating to selling and having in his possession for supply counterfeit Lifeproof phone cases and other mobile phone cases based on well-known comic and film characters such as Superman, Iron Man and Batman.

Appearing at Torquay Magistrates Court yesterday (Wednesday 26 February) he was fined a total of £300 and ordered to pay costs of £902. He was also ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge. The court also heard that Mr Martin had surrendered the counterfeit items to Trading Standards.

The court heard how Devon and Somerset Trading Standards received a complaint from a member of the public that had purchased a mobile phone case from Mr Martins’ eBay shop and then subsequently discovered that the mobile phone case was counterfeit.

A test purchase was made via the internet by a Trading Standards Officer. The mobile phone case subsequently received was also counterfeit and so Trading Standards Officers exercised an entry warrant into the home of Mr Martin. The Trading Standards Officers found and seized 173 counterfeit Lifeproof phone cases and 635 other counterfeit phone cases.

The court heard that Mr Martin had sourced the mobile phone cases from China and had continued to sell them even after receiving complaints from customers. Eventually a customer complained to eBay and their sales of Lifeproof were blocked. However, rather than learn from that they went back to the same Chinese supply portal and sourced the counterfeit character phone cases.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Service, said:

“Not only is counterfeiting an illegal activity, it also takes away custom from legitimate, local, hardworking businesses within the county who also provide a valuable contribution towards the wider UK economy.  I would ask consumers to seriously think twice about supporting this activity.  Counterfeit goods may appear to be a cheap alternative when buying gifts for family and friends but they are, by their very nature, inferior products and often unsafe.”

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Men Sentenced For Misleading Consumers Over Timeshare

Two men, Neil Mendoza of Exeter and Michael Girvin of Exmouth, have received suspended imprisonment sentences and community service, for their part in a scam to mislead time share owners.

Sentenced this week, Mendoza received 9 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years, with 200 hours community service, and Girvin received 12 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years with 200 hours community service.  Girvin also received disqualification as a company director.

The two managers of an Exeter-based company were convicted in December of misleading consumers in a case brought by the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.

Timeshare owners, unhappy in the belief that they had been mis-sold their timeshare purchases, were lured into meetings with the unscrupulous salesmen on the promise of participating in legal action against the timeshare providers.

The scheme involved contacting known customers of a number of holiday product providers with a promise that a legal action was being contemplated for the original purchase.

Many of the timeshare owners felt they had been misled at the time of the original sale and were now eager to find a way out of escalating maintenance fees, and claim restitution for the original purchase.

Devon Based Associates Ltd, sometimes trading as “Class Action UK” operated from Matford Business Park in Exeter in the winter of 2011/12.

They wrote to timeshare owners claiming that they required 25,000 signatures for the launch of a class action, and requesting a meeting with them.

However once consumers were present at their offices in Matford Business Park, Exeter, many of them were persuaded to pay over the odds for the negotiation of an exit from their holiday contracts.

Most of the resort or facility management companies, with whom the consumers have contracts, were in fact quite willing to end the open ended contracts, sometimes for a fee of a few hundred pounds or even free of charge.

However customers of Devon Based Associates were charged many times that.  Pressure was put on them with stories of perpetual liability for fees, cascading down to their children and grandchildren.

When Trading Standards visited the premises and searched documentation and computer records, no evidence of an ongoing legal claim was found.

It also transpired that the businessmen behind the scheme were ex-salesmen from one of the key companies also responsible for many of the original timeshare deals.

Neil Mendoza, 60, of Cordery Road Exeter, was found guilty of consent or connivance in three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations: firstly for misleading consumers about the purpose of the presentations; secondly for misleading them about the ability and status of the company to take a class action; and thirdly for breaching professional diligence by making unfounded claims about the merits of a class action and the compensation that could be obtained.

Mr Mendoza was a Director of Devon Based Associates and had previously been employed by St Frances Marketing Ltd.

Michael Girvin, 53, of Hamilton Road, Exmouth, was found guilty of the same offences. He had been a Director of St Frances Marketing and was involved with Devon Based Associates in a consulting capacity.

As a Director of St Frances, Girvin had previously been found guilty along with other directors and managers, of Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations offences.

St Frances Marketing, an Exeter-based company, had been prosecuted by Devon County Council Trading Standards and managers and Directors found guilty of offences under the same Regulations in 2009 for a variety of mis selling offences.

County Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said:

“Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service has been supporting the legitimate trade by advising local timeshare and holiday club businesses of their obligations. However this case shows that there are still some dishonest operators in the market.  Consumers should always use caution if they are approached with an offer that sounds too good to be true and take their time to consider, before entering any contract like this.”

Stephen Gardiner, Special Investigations manager at Devon and Somerset Trading Standards said:

“This was a brazen attempt to exploit timeshare owners’ who were already feeling out of pocket and dissatisfied with their original purchase. Owners should be very cautious about any company that contacts them out of the blue with a view to such a claim, or disposing of their holiday product. Citizen’s Advice offer consumer advice on Timeshare and similar holiday products, and can be found by contacting Citizen’s Advice on 0845 040506 or online.”

Warning Issued Over Carpet Cleaning Scam

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards is warning residents today to be aware of unscrupulous traders offering carpet cleaning services, following complaints from concerned consumers.

The traders, some of whom operate nationally, normally make initial contact by telephone, offering to clean carpets for a low or special price, often around £20 per room.

A card then arrives with a date for when the work will be carried out.

However, Trading Standards officers say that this just ‘a foot in the door’, and once in the house, the trader will say that they have found additional problems such as moth infestation, or suggest a more intensive cleaning at much higher price.

In some cases, these charges have been reported to have risen to as much as £4,000.

Devon and Somerset County Councils, which are responsible for the Trading Standards service, are concerned that the visits put unwanted pressure on householders, who may then agree to work that they do not really want.

Steve Gardiner of Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, says: “Do not be tempted to agree to work offered through an unsolicited telephone call of this nature.

“Reputable traders should not give a price over the phone, without first carrying out an inspection.

“It’s always a good idea to get two or three quotes for any work you intend to carry out to your property, including carpet cleaning, to ensure that any price you agree to is fair and reasonable.

“Use local firms with good reputations.  Ask friends and family for recommendations, or use a Buy With Confidence member, which are trades audited by Trading Standards that have agreed to trade fairly and honestly.”

To find a local business, visit the Buy With Confidence website, or telephone 01823 357261 for a list of members.

For further pre-shopping advice, or to report a potential rogue trader, please contact the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Rogue Traders Found Guilty For Offences In Plymouth and Exeter

12 February 2014 at Taunton Crown Court, James Doran (29) of Quedgely in Gloucester and Patrick Connors (23) of Hatfield in Hertfordshire, plead guilty to a variety of Consumer Protection offences committed in the summer of 2012 in Plymouth and Exeter.

They had travelled to the area, and in in one case in August, while trading as South West Drives and Patios, they approached an elderly resident of Plympton to install a block paved driveway at his home. Pressure was put on the man who reluctantly agreed a contract for £6500.  The works to be done at the property were supposed to include laying a weed control membrane, and a hardcore base and 50mm of sharp sand before paving was laid. However the work done was of a poor quality.

Police were alerted to the situation following a call from the manager of the bank  where the resident went to ask for a loan of £6000 to cover the cost of the driveway.  Suspicion was aroused when the manager investigated the paperwork and was not satisfied the company was legitimate.

An examination of the driveway has shown that no membrane had been laid and digging out and hardcore provision had not been satisfactory.

The Doorstep Crime Partnership, involving the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary and the Trading Standards services in their area (Devon and Somerset Trading Service, Cornwall Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council) aims to share intelligence and best practice in order to reduce the harm caused by these type of offences. In this case, the intelligence was shared between the Plymouth and Devon and Somerset Services, and the police, enabling the offenders to be identified and a case to be taken by the Devon and Somerset Service.

Full News Story: Rogue traders found guilty for offences in Plymouth and Exeter

Devon Farmer Convicted Of Breaching Dog Ban

An Okehampton farmer has been convicted in Exeter Magistrates Court of breaching the ban on owning dogs that was imposed on him by Exeter Crown Court in November 2012. He was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £500 plus a £30 victim surcharge. So a total of £1030.

The court heard that Leon Smith kept a collie dog in a livestock trailer on his land at Meldon, near Okehampton for at least six days. When Trading Standards Officers visited they found the dog in the trailer, the trailer was littered with dog faeces, the water for the dog was frozen solid and the officers found no food available to the dog.

Full news story: Devon farmer convicted of breaching dog ban

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Farmer Found Guilty Of Animal Welfare Offences After Ignoring Advice

24 January at Exeter Crown Court, Philip Govier of Clayhidon, plead guilty to a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (As amended), The Animal By-Product (Enforcement) (England) Regs 2011, Cattle Identification Regulations 2007, Sheep and Goats (Records Identification and Movements) Order 2009, Horse Passports Regulations 2009 and Welfare Of Farmed Animal Regulations 2007. Sentencing is adjourned until May.

Philip Govier allowed the carcases of dead animals to be eaten by dogs and predators and left his cattle in such filthy conditions on his farm, that they developed inflammation of the skin. Mr Goviers farm had become unmanageable for him and was in a state of disrepair, the animals were kept largely in squalor. Furthermore Mr Govier had repeatedly ignored advice given to him by Trading Standards Officers and other officials on the welfare of his animals.

Man Convicted Over The Supply Of A Dangerous Car

15 January at Exeter Magistrates Court, Jamie Rabin of Exminster was convicted under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (As amended) and the Companies Act 2006 (As amended). He was fined £1300 for the offences and ordered  to pay the full costs of £1071.

Mr Rabin sold a vehicle to a consumer, who discovered that it had a serious safety issue due to the previous impact damage to the near side road wheel causing significant steering misalignment. An examination of the vehicle by an expert revealed that it was in an unroadworthy condition at the time of supply, presenting a risk or potential risk to vehicle occupants and other road users.

Conviction Secured Over Sale Of Car With Incorrect Odometer

14 January at Taunton Crown Court, Richard Hammond of  Aberdare, South Wales plead guilty to a charge under the Fraud Act 2006. He was given an 18 month Conditional Discharge and ordered to pay £1000 compensation.

In 2012 Mr Hammond purchased a vehicle at Newport Car Auction with over 100,000 warranted miles on the clock. Several weeks later he sold the same vehicle at Bridgwater car auction with an odometer reading of 32,000 miles; but he failed to declare the reading was “incorrect”.