A former employee of a Peterborough firm who pressure sold to elderly and vulnerable residents has hit out at the way the firm was run.
Mathew Wood was employed as a canvasser by Life Comfort Products, and quickly became concerned at the company's methods and training. He felt so strongly that he resigned after a few weeks without another job to go to.
Mathew said: “As an ex-member of Her Majesty’s Forces I have massive respect for the older generation and the company's practices made me feel very uncomfortable, to such a degree I could not continue to work for them.”
He said that the company deliberately targeted the older generation and he was given canvassing addresses identified as potentially being occupied by people over 65 years of age.
Trainees were taught to ignore "No Cold Calling Zones" designed to protect the elderly and vulnerable, and if challenged, they were instructed to pretend they had not seen the signs.
Mathew continues: “I was told by Tim Clark (National Marketing Manager, responsible for the canvassers and their training) that consumers would ‘have a demonstration whether they like it or not’.
“We were taught not to walk away from the door until the householder was showing signs of anger, or slammed the door in our faces.
“When training I witnessed elderly consumers being reduced to tears by canvassers being overly persistent on the doorstep. We were encouraged by supervisors to enter the elderly occupant's home, and befriend them over a cup of tea to secure a demonstration.”
Mathew found it increasingly hard to come to terms with what he was expected to do to ensure a demonstration and became a whistleblower to Trading Standards early on in the investigation.
He was instrumental in assisting Trading Standards to understand how the company operated. Being prepared to give evidence in court, his perspective made it very hard for the company to deny their practices.
Timeline of events:
May 2016: Peterborough Trading Standards began to notice regular complaints to Citizen's Advice about Life Comfort Products. Complaints were similar in nature, concerning aggressive practices and restriction of consumer rights. Trading Standards identified whistle blowers that helped us understand how the company operated and methods used. Matthew Wood was an employee who left because he wasn't happy with the company’s ethics.
June 2016: A total of 13 directors and staff were issued with a summons
July 2016: Trading Standards executed a warrant at the firm's premises in Papyrus Road
Autumn 2016: Officers interviewed 16 members of staff in total,including Directors, Managers, Canvassers and Demonstrators, creating over 21 hours of recorded interviews.
August 2017: First hearing at Peterborough Magistrate's Court, all defendants entered "Not guilty" pleas. Due to the size and seriousness of the case it was adjourned and passed to Cambridge Crown Court.
October 2017: First hearing at Cambridge Crown Court, Geoffrey Turner, Jacqueline Turner, David Turner, Tim Clark, Brendan Donohoe and Joel Henry now entered "Guilty" pleas. The other defendants were permitted to seek legal advice before any plea is entered.
April 2018: Sentencing is concluded.