High-pressure sales boss fined more than £17,800

An armchair salesman who pressured vulnerable customers in Telford and Shifnal into buying goods has been ordered to pay more than £17,800.

Steven Sloan spent three hours at the home of one elderly couple, refused to take a deposit by cheque and told another customer the price would go up unless she paid £2,750 immediately for a reclining chair.

The director of Coventry-based Recline Limited arranged home visits after setting up a pop-up stand in Telford Shopping Centre.

Sloan, 50, had initially denied any wrongdoing and a trial was started.

It was halted when he subsequently admitted an offence of engaging in prohibited and unfair commercial practice by attempting to elicit an immediate decision and threes offence of engaging in commercial practice that contravenes professional diligence in June 2017.

At a sentencing hearing at Shrewsbury Crown Court he was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £3,875 compensation and costs of £7,500.

Judge Anthony Lowe said: "These were commercial offences, but should not be looked at simply as commercial offences because of the type of people that you were dealing with. On the other hand this was financially motivated and part and parcel of your efforts to achieve sales. Pressure was put on elderly and vulnerable people.

"That pressure was for financial gain. It is a well known fact that people of that age worry terribly about money. They become less sure of what to do."

"You used attritional sales techniques. You stayed on in order to get a sale. You have show no remorse and little acceptance of responsibility," the judged added.

The court heard that Sloan had assets including a caravan that he was advertising for sale at £23,995 and a £600,000 property.

Miss Debra White, mitigating for Sloan, said the actual loss to the victims were the deposits of £2,500 and £1,375. She said he planned to sell the caravan to cover his liabilities to the court.

'Crossed the line'

At a previous hearing Mr Kevin Saunders prosecuting on behalf of Shropshire Council's trading standards unit, said the intended market for the reclining chairs were generally elderly and vulnerable people who should be treated in the correct manner so that potential customers did not feel pressured in their own homes to make a decision.

He said Sloan broke regulations by using dishonest sales methods, stating that he “crossed the line”. He asked one lady for £2,750 and said if she didn’t make a decision immediately it would mean an extra £350. In another case he stayed at the home of one elderly couple for more than three hours in the evening before the contract was made.

Sloan, from Stratford-upon-Avon, must pay a total of £17,875 by April 17 or serve four months in jail in default.

Shifnal victim Bridgid Brazier, 77, a retired housing support officer, attended the hearing on Thursday.

Speaking to the Shropshire Star afterwards Mrs Brazier said: "I am really pleased that it's over. It's taken a long time to get to this point which has been upsetting.

"I now feel vindicated following the trial where I felt I was being made out to be a liar which upset me the most in all this.

"Sloan said that I hadn't asked him if I could have some time to discuss the purchase with my son before I signed anything.

"I had seen him in the shopping centre at Telford and he visited me at home by appointment. He told me what the chair was like, but I got a bit upset when he mentioned my husband who had recently moved to a care home.

"I don't think I would have signed the paperwork otherwise. I just wanted to get him out of my house at that point and I signed it.

"I spoke to my son Leonard after he left and he told me he was concerned that something wasn't right about what Sloan had done. He got in touch with Trading Standards and they came to see me.

"I was vulnerable at the time.

"I feel quite sorry for the other lady affected by this case because her husband has died before they could get their money back.

"However, I can honestly say that the prosecutor and the Trading Standards staff have been really brilliant."

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