Drayton & Taverham

Drayton businessman jailed

Just Regional
Oct 31, 2014 4 mins read

The director of a Norfolk home improvements company was handed a nine month jail sentence yesterday (Thursday 30 October) for leaving Norfolk householders in disarray and out of pocket to the tune of thousands of pounds.

David Umney, 53 of Fakenham Road, Drayton, director of Norfolk Home Improvements Ltd which was dissolved in November 2013, had formerly pleaded guilty at Norwich Crown Court to a charge of contravening the requirements of professional diligence brought against him by Norfolk Trading Standards after over 70 complaints were made by customers who had signed up for thousands of pounds worth of building work to be carried out by the company. 12 witnesses whose evidence was used in court were left out of pocket at a total cost of over £27k alone.

As well as his nine month custodial sentence, Mr Umney has been banned from acting as a director of any business for the next five years.

Co-director of Norfolk Home Improvements, Carl Watson, 50 of Twyford Lane, Foulsham, had also pleaded guilty to the same charge and was given 100 hours’ community service to be served within the next 12 months and a ban from acting as a director of a business for two years.

The investigation found that the builders either failed to carry out any of the agreed work at all, or failed to carry it out in reasonable time, or failed to carry it out with reasonable care or skill.

The checks also found the defendants had used a range of unfair trading practices to attract customers by misleading or deceiving them. This included claims that special “funding” and “vouchers” were available when these were little more than discounts and making false claims online that prices had been verified by Trading Standards.

The investigation also revealed that when customers complained, the builders either failed to respond or made no attempt to resolve the problems while other customers were refunded with cheques that bounced.

Norfolk County Council’s Maureen Cleall, who heads up the trading standards team that investigated the company said: ”This is a good outcome and reflects the scale of misery that bad businesses like Mr Umney and Mr Watson can inflict on people.

“It’s also the result of a thorough investigation by our officers which provided strong evidence that these two lured Norfolk householders with false promises to sign them up to contracts for home improvement work. But having done this, they left them in chaos, thousands of pounds worse off and facing further bills for putting right the damage they caused with their substandard work.

“Finally they simply failed to deal with the inevitable complaints that came their way or fobbed them off with refunds that proved worthless.

“Sadly, although there are many reputable home improvements companies in Norfolk, complaints about home improvements remain the second largest source of consumer complaints in Norfolk.

“So today’s result is good news for the people who were victims of Norfolk Home Improvements and demonstrates business practices like these will not be tolerated by consumers and are severely frowned upon by the courts.”

Paul Smyth, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, added: ”For many people in Norfolk home improvements represent a major investment in their biggest and most valuable asset, so Norfolk’s Trading Standards team has an essential role in protecting the interests of residents and reputable local builders from the activities of rogue companies.

“This court case illustrates how seriously Trading Standards treats the issue of so called cowboy builders and it reinforces the value of our Norfolk Trusted Trader scheme, which puts businesses through a series of checks to give consumers confidence they are dealing with reliable and trustworthy companies.”

As well as using a Norfolk Trusted Trader, people can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for information about how to avoid becoming a victim of rogue builders. It is available Monday to Friday between 9.00am to 5.00pm by calling 03454 04 05 06 (or 0208 1850 710).

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