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Trading Standards welcome sentences of vacuum cleaner directors

Published: 25 March 2019

Three company directors found guilty of fraud connected to their vacuum cleaner servicing and repair businesses have been sentenced to a total of 51 months in prison and disqualified from being company directors following a successful prosecution by Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards.

The case against Nicholas Garbett, (34), Richard Commons (34) and Craig Flint (37) concerned two companies, TDM (Midlands) Ltd, (TDM) and Independent Dyson Service Team Ltd (IDST). TDM traded from High Street, Melbourne, Derbyshire until July 2016, when it moved to Market Street, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. IDST began trading in August 2016 from the same Ashby address and was effectively a continuation of TDM.

All three were sentenced last week (Friday 22 March) at Derby Crown Court:

  • Garbett was sentenced to a total of 30 months in prison and disqualified from being a company director for 9 years.
  • Flint was sentenced to a total of 21 months in prison and disqualified from being a director for 7 years.
  • Commons was sentenced 8 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. He also has to do 180 hours unpaid work in the next 12 months and is disqualified from being a director for 5 years.

Both companies were involved in the servicing and repair of Dyson vacuum cleaners, and each of the three men were linked to both companies.

Nicholas Garbett, formerly of Ashby, and currently living in Vietnam, was a director of TDM (Midlands) Ltd and set up IDST. Craig Flint of Castle Donington and Richard Commons, of Market Street, Ashby were employees of TDM and then became directors of IDST.

The two companies were closely related and carried out their business activities in exactly the same way. This involved cold-calling consumers to offer a cut-price service to their Dyson vacuum cleaner. Consumers’ telephone numbers were obtained from photocopied BT directories.

Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards became concerned about TDM in 2015 and despite advice and visits to the company, complaints continued.

Further complaints were also made against IDST when that company started trading in August 2016. These included consumers believing they were dealing with the vacuum cleaner manufacturer ‘Dyson’ and reports that spare parts paid for in advance were not being provided.

Following a lengthy investigation Garbett faced 13 charges, Commons faced one charge and Flint faced 12 charges. Flint and Commons denied the charges against them but were found guilty.

Garbett who was not at court for the trial had `not guilty’ pleas entered by the court on his behalf, and the case against him was proved in his absence.

Each defendant faced one charge of fraudulent trading under the Companies Act 2006 they dishonestly and falsely represented to consumers that the price for a service of £14.99 was a discounted price when it was actually the standard price. Sales staff employed by the companies claimed that £40 was the normal price for a service but no one was charged this.

At the trial in February the court heard that the companies claimed the low-priced `special offer’ so that customers would agree to them visiting and they could then sell them replacement parts at highly inflated prices. The parts were paid for in advance but often never delivered.

As well as the charge of fraudulent trading, Garbett faced 12 charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, he was held to be responsible for TDM taking advance payments for replacement Dyson parts but not delivering them.

Flint’s charges include one for fraudulent trading, nine relating to offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and two further charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

In eight instances Flint took two identical payments from consumers using a hand-held card reading device. He told them that the first transaction had not gone through and asked them to put their PIN in again. In fact, the first payments were successful and went to TDM’s account. The second payment went to Flint’s personal account.

Flint also took a payment from a customer for £149.99 when it should have been £14.99, took payments for replacement parts and took customers’ vacuum cleaners away to repair but didn’t carry out repairs or return the cleaners.

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Carol Hart said:

“These three men set out to deliberately defraud customers and we welcome the sentences given by the court.

“Cold-calling people and promising services and then letting them down and leaving them out of pocket is despicable and our trading standards officers will always pursue fraudsters like this.

“The sentences send out a strong message to others who may be operating like this that we will not tolerate it, and I hope it sends out a reassuring message to our residents that we do follow up and investigate reports when they tell us companies or individuals are operating in this way.”