A ‘handyman’ who took money from two elderly couples but never turned up to do any work has admitted a series of unfair trading charges.
Denzil Michael Thomas – also known as Mick Thomas – took deposits for the work before firing off a host of excuses and ignoring calls and questions from the victims.
Thomas appeared before magistrates in Haverfordwest on 13th January and pleaded guilty to five offences under the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 following an investigation by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Trading Standards team.
Magistrates heard that this was Thomas’ fourth appearance in court for breaching consumer protection law.
The first couple contacted Thomas after seeing an advert for ‘Branching Out Garden Services’ in a local shop.
Thomas, of St Mark’s Close, Merlins Bridge, visited and agreed to carry out work totalling £460.
The victims asked for a copy of the contract but it never materialised.
Thomas asked for half of the money up front to purchase materials but had to settle for £70 which was all the couple had.
Thomas then failed to return to complete the work – giving the victims a series of excuses claiming he was waiting for materials, his van had broken down and that a workmate could not accompany him ‘due to social distancing’.
The couple then contacted Thomas to cancel and asked for the £70 to be refunded.
Despite numerous phone calls and promises, the money was never refunded. The victims even offered to drive to his home to collect the money.
At various times Thomas told them he lived at Eglwyswrw and then at Llangoedmor.
The second complainants contacted Thomas about replacing a short length of wooden fence using wire and metal posts that had already been purchased.
Thomas gave a verbal estimate of £900 and said he would need a payment of £280 to start work the following week.
A cheque was written and cashed but no paperwork was handed over.
Thomas did not return and stated the work would begin the following week.
A ‘self-isolation period due to Covid’ followed and when the complainant opted for a refund Thomas claimed a family member would draw the money out and arrange to meet the couple to hand it over.
Thomas said he wanted to do it that way rather than posting the cash as he wanted a receipt.
Thomas phoned the complainant to say his son would phone him to drop off the money shortly but nothing further was heard from him
- two offences of contravening the requirements of professional diligence (one for each couple),
- two offences of making a misleading omission of failing to provide a contract with material information that he has a duty to provide, including details of the contract, the address and contact details of the business and the consumer right to a 14 day cooling off period (one for each couple)
- one offence of making a misleading claim as to the geographical or commercial origin of the business.
Magistrates sentenced Thomas to 36 months conditional discharge and ordered him to pay compensation of £70 to the first complainants and £280 to the second complainants.
Thomas must also pay £750 towards the Council’s costs and a victim surcharge of £22.
Sandra McSparron, Pembrokeshire County Council Lead Trading Standards Officer, said: “It is disappointing that despite being previously advised of the legal requirements for doorstep agreements, Mr Thomas knowingly failed to provide consumers with the required paperwork.
“He was quick to call out and take deposits yet giving a refund proved much more difficult.
“He misled these consumers as to the whereabouts of his business to evade any chance of redress and gave them false hope that he would initially refund their money using a smokescreen of excuses.
“I am always grateful to consumers who report instances of doorstep crime.”