The High Court has closed down More than Mobility Limited - a company based in Hunslet, Leeds - for targeting the sick and elderly with hard-sell techniques and mark-ups of one thousand per cent or more.
The company generated £3 million in sales since they started trading in 2007, using a combination of cold calling and follow-up home visits to persuade householders to buy electrically adjustable beds and chairs.
The Insolvency Service Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) found:
- The company made misrepresentations to gain access to customers' homes, in particular the company cold called potential customers and falsely claimed that the purpose of the home visit by a sales representative was to gather 'views and opinions' on its products rather than to make a sale.
- Customers complained that sales representatives spent several hours at the homes of customers, pressurising the elderly and vulnerable customers, and seemingly would not leave until a sale had been achieved.
- A relative of a customer recounted how the sales representative had driven the elderly relative to her bank for her to withdraw the money to pay for the company's product.
- During home visits sales representatives purported to advise customers on pre-existing medical conditions despite having no apparent qualification to do so.
- The company offered a 'Lifetime Guarantee' on the products it sold but made no specific financial provision for potential guarantee claims.
- Customers were misled into believing they were getting a bargain when, in fact, they were not. During home appointments customers were shown a price list detailing the Company's "Recommended Retail Price" for each product along with figures described as the "Net Retail Cost" of the products. The Company's "Recommended Retail Price" was considerably lower than the corresponding "Net Retail Cost". However, there was no evidence that the products were sold, or had ever been sold, at the "Net Retail Cost" figure.
- The prices paid by customers for substantially the same product varied significantly. For example, a product was sold at £8,240 to one customer, and at £3,500 to a second customer, a difference of £4,740.
- The company sought to avoid its obligation to provide customers with a seven day 'cooling off period' in which any order made in the home can be cancelled within 7 days of the order being placed under the Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008. The company did this by persuading customers to sign a document requesting the immediate manufacture of the customer's order and accepting liability for costs incurred should the order be cancelled within the 7 day cancellation period.
- The company treated all its supplies to customers as zero rated for the purposes of VAT and obtained signed declaration forms from all its customers to confirm that they were "chronically sick or disabled", despite not all of its customers qualifying as being "chronically sick or disabled".