Between January and September 2021 elderly Herefordshire residents were deceived into buying unnecessary and vastly overpriced spray foam loft insulation which made their home virtually unsaleable.
In a Herefordshire Council Trading Standards prosecution at Worcester Crown Court on 7 December 2023, Company director Leon West, 42, of Wellingborough, Northants and salesman James Ellis, 48 of Reading, Berkshire both received immediate custodial sentences of four months.
His Honour Judge Jackson deemed it such a serious case of targeting and scamming the elderly and vulnerable that only immediate custody was appropriate.
He praised Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards Service for taking the case.
Leon West was the sole director of Green Energy Saving Solutions Ltd t/a Sovereign Eco Systems. His company illegally cold called Telephone Preference Service registered home owners offering free loft inspections.
He then sent commission-only salesmen to these appointments, pretending they were surveyors, who then made false claims to coerce consumers into having wholly unnecessary spray foam loft insulation.
The average age of the seven victims in the case was 82.
One of these salesmen, James Ellis made false claims about energy savings, telling the resident that there was rot in the roof structures and huge repair bills would be needed if spray foam was not installed quickly.
He conned consumers into believing the prices charged were half price when in fact they were way in excess of what a reasonable price should have been. For the bogus discounted price the consumers had to agree to have the installation within their statutory 14 day cooling off period so their opportunity to cancel was limited.
He also sold a number of victims a wholly unnecessary roof cleaning process involving the spraying onto the tiles of a water proofing product called Properla.
In addition to being sent to prison, both defendants were ordered to pay £17,820 compensation to the victims and a contribution of £18,000 towards prosecution legal costs. The company is in liquidation and so a nominal fine of £2000 was imposed on it.
Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards service is advising the public to be vigilant of unsolicited telephone calls offering free loft insulation surveys. These are a ruse to send salesmen round to scam people out of thousands of pounds.
Councillor Barry Durkin, Cabinet Member for Roads and Regulatory Services, said: “Targeting of the elderly to sell spray foam loft insulation is the biggest rogue trading scam in the UK. What makes it worse is that you may be unable to sell your home without having it removed at considerable additional cost. Almost every home owner over the age of 55 will receive unsolicited telephone calls trying to scam them into accepting an appointment for a free survey.
“Having the recommended 270mm of mineral wool loft insulation is the most efficient and cost effective way of insulating your loft. Many retired home owners may still qualify for free top ups. Replacing this with spray foam between the rafters is likely to increase your heating bills, not reduce them as rogue companies falsely claim.
“Our advice is never to deal with any cold callers, either on the phone or at the door.”
Anyone concerned about the activity of a potential rogue trader is urged to contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 2231133