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1st Place Grab and Skip Hire director fined [pounds sterling]31k for using 'aggressive' practices; Brian Place, from Hampshire, has been ordered to pay fines and court costs amounting to a total of [pounds sterling]31,335.90.

Byline: Eleanor Fleming

A skip hire director who pressured customers into paying extra charges for skips to be removed from outside their homes has been ordered to pay fines and court costs of more than [pounds sterling]31,000.

Brian Place, director of 1st Place Grab & Skip Hire Ltd, was sentenced atGuildford magistrates' courton April 29 for using aggressive commercial practices after residents complained to Surrey trading standards officers.

According toSurrey County Council(SCC), skips were left on the driveways of some homes for months after Mr Place demanded excessive sums of money to take them away.

The customers, who lived inFrimley,Camberley,Aldershot,Wokingham andLeatherhead, had hired building firms to carry out renovation work at their homes and paid for skips to be delivered and collected as part of the arrangements they made with their builders. SCC said Mr Place's company worked with the building firms to provide the skips.

In late 2017, one of the firms with links to Mr Place reportedly went out of business while renovation works were still under way at several homes.

Even though Mr Place had no contracts with the residents, who had already paid for skip removal through the builder, he demanded money to take away the skips sitting outside their homes, SCC says.

Mr Place reportedly told the residents -- who in some cases were already thousands of pounds out of pocket to the building firm -- they must pay him money he claimed the builders owed him.

After skips were left on their driveways for several weeks, three customers paid Mr Place out of desperation, handing him sums ranging from [pounds sterling]250 to [pounds sterling]600. Two customers refused to comply and ended up with skips at their homes for many months.

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In February 2018 a Leatherhead resident dispensed with the services of their builder, who was also working with Mr Place, soon after the work had started.

Mr Place initially removed their skip but then claimed the builder had failed to pay the correct waste charges and demanded the residents pay instead.

When they refused, he returned days later with a skip full of someone else's rubbish and dumped it on the customer's driveway, before demanding [pounds sterling]1,200 to take it away, according to SCC.

After the resident refused again, Mr Place dumped a second skip outside their home and increased his demand for money to [pounds sterling]1,600.

The resident alerted trading standards officers who investigated Mr Place's activities and arranged for the skips to be removed from the Leatherhead property, and the homes of the two other customers who had refused to pay.

AtGuildford magistrates' courton April 29, Mr Place pleaded guilty to five counts of aggressive commercial practice under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The 43-year-old, fromHampshire, also pleaded guilty on behalf of 1st Place Grab & Skip Hire to five identical charges levelled at his company.

Mr Place was fined [pounds sterling]346 on each of the five counts, amounting to [pounds sterling]1,730. He was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of [pounds sterling]4,419.50, which the council incurred for removing the skips from customers' houses.

His company was fined [pounds sterling]4,886 on each of the five counts and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of [pounds sterling]170, meaning Mr Place and his firm will have to pay a total of [pounds sterling]31,335.90.

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Denise Turner-Stewart, SCC's cabinet member for community safety, fire and resilience, said: "The skips left outside people's homes caused great inconvenience and Place exploited their desperation to get rid of the skips to pressure them into handing him money, even though they'd already paid builders for the service.

"We hope this case serves as a warning to any other traders tempted to resort to such practices. Intimidating tactics of this kind simply won't be tolerated in Surrey."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: Surrey County Council

One of Mr Place's skips left on the driveway of a property in Wokingham

Credit: Surrey County Council

Two skips were dumped outside a property in Leatherhead

Credit: Surrey County Council

The contents of one of the skips left outside the property in Leatherhead
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Publication:Get Surrey (Surrey, England)
Date:May 19, 2019
Words:718
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