On 16th November 2010, a building company and its director were fined a total of £8,630 by Brent Magistrates Court and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,100 to the London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Service.
UK Smartbuild.com Limited, based at Cheapside, North Circular Road, London N13, and its director, Mr Ertan Gokay, aged 34, of Pasture Gardens, London, N18, each pleaded guilty to five offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for falsely claiming to be approved by the National Inspection Council for Electrical Contracting (NICEIC) and the Confederation of Registered Gas Installers (CORGI), and for failing to provide a ‘cancellation notice’ to a consumer.
The Magistrates heard that the investigation into the defendant company’s activities arose after the Trading Standards Service received a complaint from a local Brent resident who had commissioned UK Smartbuild.com Limited to build an extension. When UK Smartbuild.com Limited agreed to do the works, they provided her with a basic contract but failed to issue a ‘cancellation notice’ which is required by law when consumers sign a contract from their homes giving them the right to cancel most types of agreements over £35.00.
After the work to her house commenced, the consumer became unhappy with the standards of workmanship, particularly in relation to the connection of a gas hob in her kitchen and with the electrical wiring. With failing confidence in UK Smartbuild.com’s abilities, the consumer took photographs of the company van parked outside her house which displayed various trade association logos, including those of the NICEIC and CORGI.
The consumer then contacted the NICEIC to complain about the quality of the electrical work and to seek their help to resolve the problems. However, much to her surprise, she was told by the NICEIC that UK Smartbuild.com Limited were not members of their scheme.
The matter was reported to Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Service for investigation who liaised with their colleagues at Enfield Trading Standards. It then emerged that in November 2009, a month before the Brent consumer saw the logos being used on the company van, Enfield Trading Standards had issued a ‘formal caution’ to UK Smartbuild.com Limited for falsely claiming on their business website that it was NICEIC registered.
In February 2010, a Trading Standards Officer visited UK Smartbuild.com’s headquarters and spotted a company van still incorrectly displaying the NICEIC and CORGI logos.
In mitigation, Mr Gokay stated to the Magistrates that his company had tried to trade legitimately and that he wasn’t a rogue. He added that he had been naive and said, “I know what I’ve done is wrong now, but at the time, I didn’t know how serious it was, I apologise“.
Speaking after the case, Bill Bilon, Head of Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Service said:
”We always advise consumers who require the services of builders and other tradesmen to use reputable businesses who are members of trade associations. Falsely claiming membership of such organisations, especially those responsible for carrying out electrical and gas installations, is not only deceitful but it can lead to disastrous consequences if the trader is not suitably trained and approved. I am very pleased with the sentence that has been passed against this firm and hope it will act as a deterrent to others and a warning that this Service will not hesitate in bringing legal proceedings against traders who make misleading claims and jeopardise the health and safety of the pubic“.
UK Smartbuild.com Limited was correctly registered with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), who awarded the consumer £3,500 compensation after arbitrating in her complaint.