3 get suspended prison sentences after Leicester double glazing firm gets visited by trading standards

price of double glazing

According to a report in the Leicester Mercury local newspapaer by Suzy Gibson, “three members of a window company used personal information stolen from a  rival firm to target – and then rip off – elderly customers”.

According to the report, it seems the trading standards agency sent out 58 questionnaires during their investigations. 25 of the 38 replies they received had complaints to make!

It seems the defendants, Neeraj Naresh Madhvani, Ekaterina Lycett, and Lee Varnum, along with one other Christopher Donne, (who is yet to apprehended) were associated with Premier Home  Improvements (not a limited company at company house) having once worked for  Zenith Staybrite Ltd. Neeraj Madhvani and Christopher Donne set up the company and Lycett and Varnum were the salespeople.

Trading standards seized 2,500 files that contained the personal information from Zenith, taken without consent back in May 2009.

  • There were at least 25 victims,
  • Many elderly losing deposits and
  • Failing to be told about their 7 days cooling off period.
  • They further alleged the company was associated with Zenith to help improve credibility, using foot in the door tactics to overcharge for the work and take large deposits.

In mitigation it was said that the venture was an “ill-fated venture” but “wasn’t a fraud from the outset”, seems Donne was the more experienced and persuasive of the four.  

“One of the bosses, Neeraj Madhvani (26), and his girlfriend, Ekaterina Lycett  (28), along with Lee Varnum (27), all admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by  making false representations, between February and October 2009. They were each given suspended jail sentences.

Lycett and Varnum were involved in “lying and deceiving” customers by using false personal names and trading on the reputation of well-known firms, under  Madhvani’s orders.

Madhvani,  admitted a second fraud offence, by failing to  notify customers of a seven-day cooling off perio and  being responsible for between £11,000 and £15,000 of customers’ lost  deposit, given a 12 month jail sentence, suspended for a year, with 180 hours  of unpaid work.

Lycett,  accountable for approx £6,000  of the losses, was given a nine month jail sentence, suspended for a year, with  120 hours of work whilst Varnum, (the least involved) was accountable for £2,800 of losses”.

Taking 4 years for this to come to court caused “considerable anxiety and stress” it’s claimed, for the defendants with the thought of prison sentences hanging over their heads.

Just a pity they escaped jail because this blights our industry. Regardless of whether it set out to deceive, at some point the personal data of 2,500 people was transferred from one company who owned it, onto another who didn’t. Every day that this company traded, more people experienced a double glazing salesperson that lied about consumer rights, and caused 25 of the 38 people who replied, issues.

However the report also suggests that both Madhvani and Lycett have returned to work for  Zenith, with Madhvani being “remorseful and a different person  now.”

We can find no reference to Premier Home  Improvements being registered with accreditation bodies or competent person schemes, so why are people surprised that they have been found guilty of these charges if they don’t follow good practise?

Good companies aren’t afraid to tell customers about their rights to cancel because it demonstrates there is no pressure to buy. This cooling off period prevents people being forced to sign a contact on the night and helps them get rid of someone, who is outstaying their welcome!

Whilst consumer rights directive is set to change in the future with the 7 day period increasing to 14 days, there may be more confusion as windows are considered “bespoke” and require no cooling off period. There are also severe penalties for not informing homeowners of their rights, including a cancellation period of 365 days!

Anyone concerned with this company or any other that suffer from with rogue traders is advised to contact trading standards on 08454 040506 or trading.standards@leicester.gov.uk

This article relates solely to the company known as Premier Home  Improvements, not any other of similar sounding name.

This entry was posted in Cowboys and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.