A builder who attempted to overcharge a local resident by more than £54,000 has been ordered to pay more than £16,000 after being prosecuted.
Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards Team brought the prosecution against the builder, who also falsely claimed membership of the Federation of Master Builders.
On 28th June at Bristol Crown Court, Mr Chris Taylor trading as Taylor’s of Bath, aged 64, of Bridge Place Road in Camerton pleaded guilty to two offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The court heard how in March 2018, Taylor agreed in writing to carry out a two-storey extension to the resident’s property for a contract sum of £225,000 which was clearly stated to be inclusive of VAT.
On 8th February 2019, Taylor sent a revised draft final account to the resident citing the price of the original quote to be excluding VAT and added 20% VAT to the agreed price which came to a total attempted overcharge of £54,752.
In addition, at the time the contract was agreed, the Taylor’s of Bath brochures, website and Facebook page contained the emblem of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
However, Taylor’s of Bath was not a member of the FMB at the time. The FMB is a trade organisation for builders that requires members to adhere to a strict code of conduct and vets all members to ensure the quality of their business practices.
The FMB also offer a dispute resolution service for members and their clients.
By February 2019, the resident and Taylor’s of Bath’s were in dispute so the resident contacted the FMB in the hope they could resolve the issue.
However, it transpired that Taylor’s of Bath were not a member at the time and the dispute resolution service was not available to them.
In passing sentence, His Honour Judge Blair QC Recorder of Bristol stated: “It was a misleading and a deliberate act to attempt to add VAT to the original agreed contract sum.”
Taylor was ordered to pay £16,750, made up of a £6300 fine for the offences, a victim surcharge of £450 and a contribution of £10,000 for prosecution costs.
Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for Planning and Licensing, said: “Businesses have a legal responsibility not to mislead consumers and should stick to the agreed price.
“We hope that this prosecution sends out a clear message that our trading standards team will not hesitate to investigate and take action against those builders who attempt to mislead residents and unfairly inflate prices.
“We run an approved trader scheme called ‘Buy with Confidence’ where residents can search for local businesses which have been vetted and approved by Trading Standards.
“We would always encourage anyone looking for a local business to carry out some work for them to visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk.
“Anyone who thinks they might have fallen victim to a rogue trader should report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who work in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset Trading Standards. Their number is 0345 40 40 506.”
Before agreeing to any work, B&NES Council’s Trading Standards team recommend that you:
- Read reviews of traders and if possible use the Buy with Confidence Approved Trader Scheme.
- Ask at least three approved traders for quotes.
- Never pay up front and never pay cash.
- Say no to doorstep sellers.
- Always get a detailed written quotation/contract.
- Check the builder’s references and even pay visits to the references.
- Ask your neighbours, family or friends for personal recommendations of builders who have worked for them and carried out a good job.
The Buy with Confidence directory is available free of charge to callers to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s One Stop Shop in Lewis House, Manvers Street, Bath: The Hollies, Midsomer Norton and the Civic Centre in Keynsham.
It is also available online here or by calling 01225 3966759.