Plumber charged for unprofessional and unneeded jobs

A Plumber who misled an elderly Leamington woman has been successfully prosecuted by Warwickshire’s Trading Standards service.

Timothy Barnes, who trades as T Barnes Plumbing and Heating, in Barton Drive, Knowle, was found guilty of two consumer protection offences.

These offences related to Barnes carrying out and charging for unnecessary work and failing to carry out work to a professional standard.

Barnes then appealed his conviction.

The appeal was held at Warwick Crown Court last month.

The Judge and Magistrates upheld the original conviction and dismissed the appeal.

In November 2010 Barnes went to the home of the elderly woman, who had contacted him after she noticed a blockage in her ground floor wet room.

Barnes visited the property on two separate occasions and charged the consumer £365 for work he claimed was necessary.

This included trying to rod the drains, digging a hole in the consumer’s back garden and placing an extra piece of pipework on top of a vent pipe.

On completing this work, Barnes claimed the blockage had now been moved down the street and had been cleared from the consumer’s pipes.

However, after Barnes had left, the customer realised that the problem in her wet room remained unresolved.

It later emerged that the problem had actually been caused by a blockage to the main sewer pipe further along the road, which was eventually cleared by the Council.

Mr Barnes realised this shortly after he arrived at the property on the second occasion.

However, he continued to charge the consumer for approximately three hours’ more work by himself and his assistant.

Council contractors who came to unblock the sewer were concerned about the work the consumer had paid for.

The woman then contacted Trading Standards.

At Solihull Magistrates Court in April Barnes was found guilty of two offences under section 8 and section 9 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

He was fined £600 and ordered to pay £180 compensation, a £15 victim surcharge and £1,200 prosecution costs.

On appeal, the Judge and magistrates upheld the conviction and ordered that the original fine was to stand.

The Judge also ordered Mr Barnes to pay a further £5,000 toward prosecution costs, stating that people should understand that they do not get a free ride when using the court system.

At the original trial Carl Vasey, representing Barnes, said his client was currently signed off work due to a bad back and accepted that the aggravating factor in the case was the age and vulnerability of the victim.

Miss Heeley, who represented Barnes at his appeal, said her client had taken a reasonable step by step approach to locating and dealing with the blockage.

But the court rejected this claim.

Warwickshire Trading Standards, run by Warwickshire County Council, is urging people to go on recommendation when they employ a trader.

To report consumer issues call 0845 404 0506.