Scales of Justice

Fake gas fitter pressured vulnerable customer for more money

An illegal gas fitter has been given a suspended prison sentence after he claimed to be Gas Safe registered, carried out unsafe gas work and pressured a vulnerable customer into making additional payments.

Luton Crown Court heard that Sam Buggins, from Letchworth Garden City, trading as Infinity Heating and Plumbing, had come to the attention of Central Bedfordshire Trading Standards in 2018, following several complaints by residents.

Trading Standards, prosecuting, said its investigation found that Mr Buggins had falsely claimed to a number of people in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, that he was Gas Safe registered. In fact, he had been removed from the Register. He had installed a gas fire in Dunstable in an unsafe manner, with the standard of workmanship falling below fair and reasonable expectations.

The gas fireplace opening was greater than the dimensions given by the manufacturer’s instructions, and so the fireplace opening was not fully sealed, nor had the pipework been sealed in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Additionally, the gas pipework in the catchment space had not been protected, combustible wood was found within the fireplace opening, and the top of the fire was screwed to the wood.

Mr Buggins had also taken money to install a premium boiler, but instead fitted a cheaper one of a lower quality.

As the investigation progressed, the Trading Standards team was contacted by Hertfordshire County Council to also investigate complaints from Hertfordshire residents.

The court heard that Mr Buggins had undertaken aggressive commercial practices and had pressured a disabled, vulnerable customer into making additional payments beyond what had been agreed, and then failed to do any of the work. The customer had to find an additional £1,200 from their disability benefits to pay another trader to complete the work.

Alex Buggins, 33, of the Rundels, Letchworth Garden City, pleaded guilty to five counts of Misleading Actions and one Count of Aggressive Commercial Practices under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, 20 days’ rehabilitation activity and a three-month curfew between 5am and 8pm. He was also ordered to pay £1,200 compensation to his victims.

Executive member for Community Services, Councillor Ian Dalgarno, said after the case: “We are committed to disrupting rogue trader activity and protecting our communities. Our officers will conduct robust investigations, where there is evidence of wrongdoing. Carrying out gas safety work when you are not registered as competent to do so is extremely serious and this could have endangered lives. Luckily, in this instance no one was hurt, and we were pleased to be able to obtain justice for all of his victims, both in Central Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.”

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