By Alex Douglas
Cheshire East Council’s trading standards team has prosecuted the former owner of Britannia Homelifts after she left pensioners more than £50,000 out of pocket.
Belinda Rogers was found to have taken huge deposits from her customers but failed to deliver stairlifts to some customers or installed products that were faulty.
Rogers, who ran the firm from offices in Congleton, received a six months’ suspended prison sentence and has been ordered to pay £50,350 in compensation to people she had let down.
She must also pay £500 compensation to each of three customers who suffered distress after their lifts failed to arrive.
The sentencing also means she will have to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work.
In addition to the fines, Rogers was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years and ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs. Her prison sentence was suspended for two years.
The council says the case represents one of the most distressing its trading standards team has had to investigate and involved support from other trading standards teams around the country.
Rogers, who advertised her business nationally, appeared at Chester Crown Court on 28 November for sentencing and was told by the judge Mr Justice Ian Dove that she displayed ‘dreadful’ business incompetence, had caused financial distress to her customers, had let old people down and demonstrated a litany of failures.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to contravening professional diligence, an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The court was told of eight instances where customers had paid substantial deposits – from £7,000 to £13,500 – for stairlifts and through-the-floor domestic lifts intended to assist people with mobility difficulties.
Some lifts were not delivered at all and those that were delivered developed faults and could not be used or were not fit for purpose.
One 96-year-old, who lost £11,000, had a hole cut in his floor but waited 18 weeks for his lift only to learn the business had gone bust.
Although three customers were reimbursed via their credit card chargeback scheme, others lost substantial sums when the company went into liquidation.
Rogers said the day-to-day running of the business was delegated to staff and she relied on her managers. She said staff had not followed procedures. The court heard she would sell property to reimburse all those who lost money.
After the hearing Frank Jordan, Cheshire East Council’s acting executive director of place, said: “This was a lengthy, and at times, distressing investigation by our trading standards officers and I wish to thank them for bringing this case to court and ending the highly irregular and insensitive business practices of this company.”
Adding: “The council would also wish to express its sympathy for these elderly, vulnerable adults who have lost huge sums of money as a result of the incompetence of this individual.”