Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 16:02 UK

Rogue traders caught by new laws

David Jason as Derek 'Del Boy ' Trotter in an Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special, 2001
Rogue traders are not usually so amiable as Del Boy

A father and son have become the first people tried under new consumer laws, designed to protect the public from unfair treatment.

Handymen Jimmy and Shane Stockwell, of Douglas Haig Road, Salisbury, were ordered by a judge to stop bullying or threatening elderly customers.

They were warned that they would be fined or jailed if they disobeyed him.

The prosecution was the first under new regulations designed to stop aggressive or misleading business tactics.

Shoddy work

"This was a case which demanded immediate action," said Steve Clover of Wiltshire trading standards.

"Many of the victims were elderly or otherwise vulnerable and the new regulations provided an ideal way to deal with the behaviour," he added.

Several people had complained about the two men's aggressive behaviour and shoddy workmanship.

At Salisbury County Court, Judge Cutler ordered the pair not to mislead their customers or bully them into paying or agreeing that work should be done.

They were also told not or make contracts without telling customers that they could cancel within 14 days.

Failure to obey, the judge said, would be treated as contempt of court.

New laws

The wide-ranging laws came into force on 26 May.

For the first time they put an obligation on firms not to trade unfairly.

That includes avoiding misleading statements or omissions and not using aggressive sales tactics such as harassment and coercion.

Chris Warner, a lawyer for the consumers' organisation Which? said the prosecution was a shot across the bows for rogue traders.

"The new regulations have teeth - if these guys don't comply with the order they could face contempt of court proceedings and could end up in prison.

"We'd like to see the regulations go a step further so people that have been left out of pocket by unlawful behaviour are automatically reimbursed, rather than having to go through the small claims court," he added.

The court order lasts until 31 December 2010.


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