October 31 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Four salesmen have been accused of fraudulently altering contracts so that customers, including schools and charities, were misled into entering costly financial agreements against their will.
The salesmen at DWS Environmental Ltd, based in Bury St Edmunds, appeared before Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, facing 26 counts of fraud by false representation between them.
Christopher Gill, 39, from The Vinefields in Bury St Edmunds, Gary Green, 53, of Peregrine Road, Ilford, Alan Wilson, 50, of Curzon Street, Burton on Trent, and David Leather, 50, of Trafalgar Road, Manchester, all deny the charges.
Christopher Kerr, prosecuting on behalf of Suffolk County Council Trading Standards, said the men “dishonestly induced” their customers into long-term water cooler leases, which cost thousands of pounds to opt out of.
“The allegation, in a nutshell, is that each of the defendants acted fraudulently,” he said.
“In particular, they deliberately misled their customers into believing they were only going to be committed for a limited period, typically six to 12 months, when in fact they were going to be entering into a much longer commitment of five, even six years.
“The reason, the prosecution alleges, that the period of commitment was so limited is they knew the customer would not be prepared to tie themselves in for such a lengthy period of time. It is also the case they would earn commission from the business they sold, which would be dependent on the length of the contract period.”
Mr Kerr told the court that handwriting evidence would prove each of the defendants had altered their customers’ order sheets to lengthen the contract.
The salesmen, he said, would take signed order sheets from their customers and then add extra digits and fill in blank boxes.
The court heard, customers would be left with no copy of the agreement, and only realised what they had been signed up to when a statement from Chivington Finance and Leasing arrived – a company said to hold “close ties” with DWS Environmental.
Mr Kerr said the defendants’ defence is that while they did change the figures, they did so consensually in the presence of the customer - claims the prosecution rejects.
Among Green’s alleged victims were two charities – Drug and Alcohol Action Programme and the Anglia Cancer Network – which Mr Kerr said had made “quite clear they could not commit for longer than six to 12 months because of budget uncertainties”.
Norwich Road Community Primary School in Thetford was another of the victims outlined in court, which Mr Kerr said had been duped into a lengthy contract by Gill.
The trial continues.