Directors of Peterborough firm which targeted pressure sales on elderly residents warned they could be jailed
Directors of a Peterborough firm who told staff to pressure sell to vulnerable elderly residents have been told they could be jailed.
Husband and wife Geoffrey and Jaqueline Turner, who were both directors of Life Comfort Products, Sales manager David Turner - brother of Geoffrey, national marketing manager Tim Clark and demonstrators Joel Henry, David Perrow and Brendan Donahoe were all warned by Judge Jonathan Cooper they could be jailed after he heard how the firm used pressure sales during a hearing at Peterborough Crown Court.
The family run firm, which was based in Werrington before going into voluntary liquidation, sold chairs and beds to elderly residents who may have mobility issues - and the court heard how scripts for salesmen were designed by the company to push products on elderly customers, and those suffering from conditions including dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.
The court was told in two cases products sold by staff actually made a health condition worse for patients, and sales staff actively targeted vulnerable people - looking for hand rails and mobility ramps outside homes, or areas where there were large numbers of bungalows. Canvassers were even told to ignore 'no cold calling zones.'
They lied to customers about being a family firm which had been in the city for generations - when in fact it was formed in 2009, told consumers the products were bespoke and made in Peterborough by craftsmen - when the parts were actually bought from a Welsh factory, and refused refunds when it was discovered they were not suitable.
Cameron Crowe, prosecuting, told the court of one example where a 92-year-old woman was sold a bed - which then was so big she could not move round the room using her zimmer frame.
When the company was contacted regarding the sale, a refund was refused - and when pushed, sales manager David Turner put the phone down.
In another case a woman heard the firm on the phone to her grandmother, who repeatedly said she did not want a chair. Even when the 92-year-old's granddaughter told the firm they were not interested, representatives arrived two days later for a demonstration.
Other customers were given products which were not suitable for their needs.
Mr Crowe said the firm put profits ahead of everything else - with Clark telling canvassers to be 'persistently persistent when calling potential customers.'
The directors wrote scripts for the canvassers - which were both phone and door-to-door based - with answers inserted for every possible objection a customer could have.
When demonstrators did arrive at customers homes, they would often spend a number of hours showing the products.
The court was told they would say products were on sale for high prices, before telling residents they were eligible for discounts - but only while the staff were in the home.
The court was even told on occasions demonstrators had filled out cheques for residents.
Industry experts analysed three products sold by Life Comfort - and found they were of poor quality and not fit for purpose.
Mr Crowe also told the court demonstrators were paid on a commission only basis - and staff who were not bringing in appointments required by the firm would be given additional training - and even monitored by GPS.
An investigation into the company was only started after Trading Standards received hundreds of complaints.
The Turners and Clark sat in the dock listening to the facts, while - because of the lack of space in the court - Donahoe, Turner and Perrow sat in the jury box.
The court was told victims said they felt humiliated, were left out of pocket, and nervous of people coming to the door as a result of the firm's actions.
When interviewed, Mr Crowe said Geoffrey Turner - a 50 per cent shareholder - showed no remorse for the firms actions - and even claimed the company had done nothing wrong.
Jacqueline Turner, a 25 per cent shareholder - even sought to blame Trading Standards, while David Turner denied all wrong doing.
James Buchanan, defending the Turners and Clark, as well as the company as a whole, said a number of questionnaires had been filled out by customers, showing many were satisfied with the service received.
He said all defendants had pleaded guilty, avoiding the need for a trial - and Judge Cooper said they would be given a 25 per cent discount on their sentences as a result.
The court heard the maximum sentence available was a two year prison sentence and/or a fine.
Judge Cooper also said he would be considering compensation to victims at a later hearing.
The case has now been adjourned until April 19, at Cambridge Crown Court.
All defendants were bailed until the next hearing.
Geoffery Turner (65) and Jacqueline Turner (60) both of Hall Lane, Werrington, Peterborough, David Turner (62) of Swan Close, Spalding, Clark (43) of High Road, Wisbech, Henry (54) of Bluebell Close, Daventry, Donahoe (59) of Cogging Close, Newark and Perrow (62) of Newick Road, Liverpool, as wella s the company overall, had all entered guilty pleas to a charge of contravening professional diligence.