Court Orders Rap Optimum Care Mobility, Directors
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has secured court orders against Optimum Care Mobility Limited, a Derbyshire-based business that sold mobility aids such as stairlifts, scooters and specialist chairs, across the country.
The orders prevent the company and its former directors from using unfair and misleading sales practices again.
Optimum went into creditor’s voluntary liquidation and joint liquidators were appointed over its affairs on 29 February 2012. The court orders apply to the directors as well as the company and are enforceable against the individuals and prevent them from using unfair and misleading sales practices again. Should the individuals subject to the court orders breach them, they may be in contempt of court.
The OFT was concerned that people, often the elderly or disabled, were being misled when they bought mobility aids from Optimum. The OFT worked closely with Derbyshire County Council’s Trading Standards department during its investigation and was particularly concerned that Optimum:
- Falsely claimed it was connected to public bodies such as the NHS and/or qualified to make medical judgments.
- Made persistent and unwanted telesales calls without making clear the purpose of the telephone call.
- Engaged in excessively long sales visits in order to secure deals in the consumers’ homes.
- Did not provide and honour legal rights to cancel a purchase.
- Offered to sell items on credit without holding the required licence to do so.
The enforcement orders are against Optimum the company and Christopher Richard Hayball, a former director at Optimum, and prevent them from engaging in practices that breach consumer protection and consumer credit laws, including the conduct described above. They were obtained on 26 June 2012 from Nottingham County Court.
The OFT also secured similar enforcement orders by consent on 2 April 2012 against Gary Frederick Price, and Linda Anne Price, both also former directors at Optimum.
This enforcement action is part of the OFT’s commitment to tackle unfair sales practices by mobility aids suppliers and is the latest of a series of cases by both the OFT and Trading Standards Services across the UK. This follows the OFT’s market study into the mobility aids sector last year.
Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director of the Goods and Consumer Group said: “This action demonstrates the OFT’s ongoing commitment to tackle unscrupulous behaviour in the mobility aids sector by working in partnership with other enforcers, in this case Derbyshire County Council.
“Many of Optimum’s customers were elderly or disabled and subjected to misleading and excessively long sales pitches, and in many cases the business also failed to honour customers’ legal cancellation rights. We also found examples of people paying much more for products they could have bought more cheaply elsewhere.
“These practices are unacceptable and we are pleased that the Court granted the enforcement orders we sought.”
Derbyshire County Council referred the case to the OFT after concerns that voluntary legal undertakings it had secured from Optimum and its directors to comply with the law were being breached.
Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Kevin Parkinson, said: “We worked closely with the OFT on this case and are pleased with the outcome. We will continue to work with our partners to make sure that vulnerable people in Derbyshire are protected from rogue traders.”
As part of an ongoing national awareness campaign, the OFT is encouraging people to shop around and understand their rights when buying mobility aids from doorstep traders. The OFT is encouraging people to consider the following advice when buying items in their homes:
- Think twice before you buy and if you are made to feel under pressure to make a purchase, have the confidence to say no.
- Be wary of time-limited or exclusive offers that need to be signed on the spot – this can be a high pressure sales tactic.
- If you feel you’ve entered into something you wish you hadn’t, you usually have seven days to cancel so talk to someone you trust as soon as possible for a second opinion.
- Double check the facts. Have the full costs been explained clearly to your satisfaction so you understand all hidden extras like installation, on-going service charges or warranties?
- If possible, shop around to compare products and prices.