Jury retires in trial over ‘aggressive’ sales tactics

Stephen Gedge and First Home Improvements are on trial at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT

Stephen Gedge and First Home Improvements are on trial at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The jury in the trial of a home improvement company and one of its salesmen who are accused of consumer protection breaches in relation to a customer in his 70s from Suffolk has retired to consider its verdicts.

Before Ipswich Crown Court are Steven Gedge, 56, of Havant Close, Norwich, and First Home Improvements, of Lenwade.

They have each denied one offence of engaging in a commercial practice which was misleading, engaging in an unfair commercial practice and engaging in an aggressive commercial practice.

Gedge has also denied fraud and First Home Improvements has also denied a further offence of engaging in a commercial practice that was misleading.

The offences date back to 2017.

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It has been alleged that a former magistrate from Blundeston, who had had a heart bypass and prostate cancer, was reduced to tears by Gedge's "aggressive" manner during a telephone call when he tried to cancel an order for a new conservatory roof.

Adam Pearson, prosecuting for Suffolk Trading Standards, alleged that the man, who is in his 70s, was so upset he handed the phone to his wife.

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A decision was subsequently made to allow the homeowner to cancel the contract but he was allegedly told that if he challenged the retention of his deposit the company reserved the right to charge him 25% of the order.

Giving evidence Gedge said in the 12 years he had been a salesman with FHI he had visited around 7,000 homes and apart from the matter before the court no other complaints had been made against him.

Gedge, a former chef, broke down in tears as he told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that when he changed careers he made a pledge to his children that he " wouldn't be the kind of old fashioned salesman who took advantage of people.

He denied ever being aggressive or misleading in his dealings with the customer from Blundeston.

The jury retired to consider its verdicts this afternoon and was sent home at the end of the day without reaching any verdicts.

The jury is expected to return to court to continue its deliberations tomorrow.

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