Two people who ran a company that fraudulently serviced Dyson vacuums have been convicted at Leeds Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud following an investigation by National Trading Standards.
Thomas Scoffin (age 31 from Park Avenue, Leeds) and his mother Linda Scoffin (age 66 from Hall Drive, Lincoln) ran Leeds-based Excel Servicing Ltd. The company defrauded their customers – many of whom were elderly or vulnerable – by falsely claiming to represent Dyson and then conducting unnecessary servicing on their Dyson vacuum cleaners.
The company cold-called members of the public by phone and told them their Dyson vacuum cleaners required a service. Customers were misled to believe Excel Servicing represented Dyson, with some being told Dyson had contracted out their servicing to Excel.
Despite the company’s claim that people’s Dyson vacuum cleaners required servicing, Dyson vacuum cleaners do not require servicing at all. When company representatives attended the homes of customers they conducted unnecessary ‘servicing’ on customer’s Dyson machines and, in some cases, actually damaged their Dyson vacuum cleaners. The actions of Excel Servicing representatives also voided customer’s Dyson warranties.
Customers were often charged between £50 and £200 for the servicing and replacement of filters in the Dyson vacuums. The typical charge for a new filter was £40 but investigations by the National Trading Standards Yorkshire & Humber Regional Investigations Team found that they were in fact worth between £2 and £5.
While at the homes of victims ‘servicing’ their Dyson cleaners, Excel Servicing staff used the opportunity to deploy pressure-selling tactics to persuade customers to buy unnecessarily another brand of vacuum cleaner. The new cleaners – which are designed for industrial use – were sold for between £500 and £2,000 and were often too heavy for the customers they were sold to.
Thomas and Linda Scoffin will be sentenced next month and are to face confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“These individuals preyed on elderly and vulnerable consumers, exploiting their trust and defrauding them. The supposed servicing work was completely unnecessary and they abused their access to customers’ homes by having their staff then use pressure sales techniques to sell cleaners which were not needed and often unsuitable.
“National Trading Standards is committed to protecting consumers and we will not hesitate to prosecute those attempting to defraud consumers. If you think you or someone you know may have fallen victim to a fraudulent business then I would urge you to contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
The total money received by Excel Servicing from customers for this activity was over £1.5 million. This funded a lavish lifestyle for the defendants with money being spent on holidays, high-end clothing and a wedding for Ms Scoffin. Despite this Excel Servicing declared a loss to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customers during this period and paid no Corporation Tax.
Colin Rumford from the National Trading Standards Yorkshire & Humber Regional Investigations Team said:
“This investigation was shocking both in terms of the number of people who were defrauded and the shamelessness of the tactics deployed by Excel Servicing. The company deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable people – including some who had dementia.
“The only purpose of this fraud was to enrich the defendants. While they inflicted misery on their victims they enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. I am pleased that our investigation has secured these deserved convictions.”
Councillor Nigel Ayre, Executive Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said:
“This case of mis-selling has caused considerable distress to many vulnerable people. The verdict shows the severity of their actions and mistreatment of customers, which will not be tolerated and our dedicated investigative team will continue their work to bring people who exploit people and defraud customers to justice.”
Their operations manager Paul Laycock, who was also tried for conspiracy to defraud, was found not guilty by the Jury.
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case or for general enquiries about National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
About National Trading Standards
- National Trading Standards provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally
- The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
- National Trading Standards teams are based within local authority trading standards services
- For more information please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk