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Salesman and window company cleared of high pressure sales tactics

PUBLISHED: 13:36 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:57 07 February 2020

The First Home Improvements offices in Lenwade, Norfolk. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The First Home Improvements offices in Lenwade, Norfolk. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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A home improvement company and one of its salesmen were cleared on Friday of using high pressure sales tactics against a customer.

Ipswich Crown CourtIpswich Crown Court

Steven Gedge, 56, of Havant Close, Norwich, and First Home Improvements, of Lenwade, had each denied engaging in a commercial practice which was misleading. Gedge also denied fraud.

The allegations, which dated back to 2017, were heard in a week-long trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

It was alleged during the trial that a former magistrate from Blundeston, who 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.

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.

Councillor Richard Rout of Suffolk County Council. Picture: SCCCouncillor Richard Rout of Suffolk County Council. Picture: SCC

Giving evidence, Gedge said that in the 12 years he had been a salesman he had visited around 7,000 homes and no other complaints had been made against him.

Michael Fagg, managing director of First Home Improvements, said afterwards he was disappointed Trading Standards had brought the case.

"We were always confident that we had done nothing wrong," he said.

"We are very pleased at the outcome of this case.

"We have successfully carried out more than 60,000 home improvements since the company was founded in 2008, and this was the first time such a case had been brought against us.

"We are particularly pleased that Steve has been exonerated as this has been hanging over him for some time."

Afterwards, Richard Rout, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: "The role of Suffolk County Council's Trading Standards is to place the evidence we have obtained before the court, and it is the court's role to decide the outcome."

"We are disappointed with the verdict, especially for the complainants, but accept the court's decisions. Our officers are committed to investigating any breach of consumer legislation. We have had a number of successful prosecutions recently and will continue our work to protect Suffolk's residents and businesses.

"If anyone is in dispute with a business, we would encourage them to contact the national Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133, for advice."

Trading Standards also said the Judge had praised the organisation, saying it was "very active and supportive in this county".

"Just because the defendants have been acquitted does not mean you should think less of Suffolk Trading Standards," the Judge said.

"They are ultimately an excellent department and take very seriously the complaints put before them. It is absolutely right that this case be aired before the court and jury."

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