Customer complaints lead to Trading Standards Prosecution

A businessman who offered customers home surveys when he was not registered to do so has been prosecuted by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

Trading Standards officers had no choice but to take action after uncovering six offences involving Jeremy Michael Rees Thomas, trading as Rees Thomas Chartered Building Engineers and Surveyors in Llanharan.

Residents have a right to expect the services they are contracting for are as described and that professionals they contract in respect of those services do not mislead consumers by action or omission.

Officers were contacted in December 2016 after Rees Thomas, whose premises were in Talbot Green Business Park, entered into a contract with a customer to carry out a HomeBuyer Survey.

These surveys are a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) licensed product. Mr Thomas provided information to the customer that led them to believe he was a member of RICS. 

In fact, he had been expelled from RICS in 2014 and, as a result, was not permitted to refer to himself as a Chartered Surveyor nor undertake HomeBuyer Surveys.

The following January, Trading Standards received a complaint from another customer, that Mr Thomas had also led them to believe he was a Chartered Surveyor.

As part of the investigation, a Trading Standards Officer viewed Mr Thomas' website and his entry on the Local Surveyors Direct Website, a website that assists consumers to identify companies suitable to conduct the survey they require.

Both these sites contained references to Mr Thomas being a Chartered Building Engineer. Mr Thomas had failed to update his online information that his membership of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) had been terminated earlier in 2017 and, as a result, was not permitted to refer to himself as a Chartered Building Engineer.

As a result, Mr Thomas was charged with six offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, all of which he admitted when he appeared at Merthyr Magistrates' Court on March 21.

He told the court he did make amendments following contact from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors but he did it piecemeal and accepts he could have done more and should have created a new, accurate website.

He admitted he "buried his head in the sand" and had no deliberate intention to mislead.

He was fined a total of £2,500 and ordered to pay £2,084 costs and a victim surcharge of £62.

Louise Davies, Head of Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Community Safety at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: "Our officers work proactively to ensure businesses have the information they need to ensure they are adhering to the law and doing all they can to protect and inform consumers.

"Consumers have a right to procure services and be confident that the person providing those services is who they say they are and have the necessary accreditation to undertake such work.

"A main reason why Mr Thomas found himself in court was due to not following the advice provided by the Trading Standards Officer as to what he needed to do to accurately describe himself and his services to potential customers.

"Although Mr Thomas claimed in court that there was no malice or aggression behind his practices, he still misdescribed himself and his work, which could have had serious implications on the house-buyers who were relying on this.

"I hope the action taken in this case serves as a reminder to all to ensure that the information they present about themselves and their business products – on websites, on paperwork, in person or on social media, accurately reflects that."

Posted on Thursday 12th April 2018
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