9th Dec, 2016

Plumbing firm prosecuted after charging elderly Coventry couple £280 an hour to unblock toilet

Les Reid 22nd Aug, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

Coventry Trading Standards’ team has assisted in the prosecution of Birmingham-based plumbing companies that duped their elderly customers, including two Coventry residents who paid out almost £1,800 for work in their bathrooms.

The plumbing firm charged rates of up to £280 per hour to unblock a toilet, advertising in the Yellow Pages as emergency local plumbers that offered OAP discounts.

Duane Linton, aged 34, of Wood Lane, Handsworth was company director of Plumb-Tech Plumbing and Heating Ltd, based in Great Barr, Birmingham, and Plumb-Tech Plumbing and Heating 1 Ltd, of Wood Lane, Handsworth.

He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, and was jailed for two years and eight months.

An investigation by Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards, with the assistance of Staffordshire police, found that once a call had been made, Linton sent out subcontracted plumbers from Birmingham.

Allan Harwood, Coventry City Council’s trading standards and consumer protection manager, said: “This case is a good example of how Trading Standards from different authorities work together to tackle the matter of rogue traders who take advantage of vulnerable consumers.

“We advise using traders by personal recommendation of friends or family or by a vetted scheme such as Trusted Trader which is run in partnership between Trading Standards and Age UK.”

In one incident two plumbers turned up at a rate of £672 per hour to unblock a toilet.

They then returned the following day to do non-emergency work on a soil pipe at the property where an emergency rate was again charged. The total cost for ‘unblocking’ the toilet came to £5,642.

Victims were targeted between March 2014 and January this year.

Subcontractor Otis Wray, aged 44, of Birdbrook Road, Birmingham was jailed for nine months and ordered to pay £2,000 costs and compensation to victims of £1,113.

Peter Hawketts, aged 55, of Vardon Way, Kings Norton was jailed for 16 months and Patrick Thawe, aged 45, of Little Park, Quinton, Birmingham was sentenced to 20 months in jail.

All four men pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

The court also heard that claims in advertisements were untrue and basic parts were not carried by the plumbers who subsequently took an inordinate amount of time to source them and charged for that also at a premium rate.

Sentencing took place at Stafford Crown Court on August 4.