A husband and wife from Leeds convicted of consumer protection offences against vulnerable people have been sentenced to a total 40 months imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court today (3rd March).
Defendants Claire Wray (aged 38) and Paul Wray (aged 51) both of Clayton Wood Close, Leeds, had mis-sold mattresses, beds and mobility equipment to elderly consumers through their company Dreamwell Limited. The Court heard evidence about 44 victims from around the country, and was told that the value of sales from illegal sales practices was over £4 million.
Claire Wray, the sole director of the company, was found guilty of misleading, banned and aggressive commercial practices by a jury after a week-long trial in January this year. Claire Wray was also found guilty of money laundering. She was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and was disqualified from being a company director for seven years.
Her husband, Paul Wray, company secretary for Dreamwell Ltd, pleaded guilty to illegal commercial practices in July 2016. He was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment and was disqualified from being a company director for nine years.
The couple was arrested on 9 December 2014 following over 50 complaints which triggered an extensive operation over an 18-month period by the National Trading Standards Yorkshire & the Humber Regional Investigations Team, based at City of York Council.
Investigators found that canvassers acting on behalf of Dreamwell misled elderly consumers into believing that they were carrying out market research, when in fact they were arranging appointments for sales staff to visit them in their own homes.
Consumers were then convinced to give information about their medical history, which was later used by sales staff to mis-sell mobility-related products. Staff created the impression that Dreamwell Ltd was a company with medical credentials or connected to a healthcare body, when it was actually a business acting with a purely commercial intent.
Sales staff were trained by Paul Wray to engage in aggressive commercial practices to sell mobility-related products. In one instance, the salesperson stayed in the consumer’s home for 6.5 hours. Sales staff took advantage of the frailty and vulnerability of their customers, even visiting consumers with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The investigation found that the products sold were unnecessary, unsuitable and expensive.
In sentencing the Wrays, Judge Rob Mair said: “This wasn’t sales reps on frolics of their own, it was you Paul Wray, who coached them to do this and Claire Wray, you were complicit.
“Offences were committed over a lengthy period of time. It is difficult to think of a worse offence of this kind.”
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 those who had dealings with Dreamwell Ltd. The sentence shows the severity of the mistreatment of data and of customers and that it will not be tolerated, and that our tenacious investigative team will bring people who exploit the vulnerable to justice.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “I am pleased that the hard work of the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team has led to these convictions and would like to thank the investigating officers for their efforts. These sorts of deliberate attempts to deceive consumers – many of whom were in vulnerable situations – will not be tolerated.
“I urge anyone who is suspicious of salespeople in their neighbourhood to contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.”
The case is expected to return to court for a proceeds of crime hearing in early 2018.
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact Megan Rule, Senior Communications Manager at City of York Council on 01904 552017.
For more general enquiries regarding 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
- For media enquiries about National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail email@example.com.