Salesmen followed 'strict guidelines' when selling to elderly and disabled customers, furniture boss tells court
A mobility furniture boss accused of pressuring disabled and elderly clients into buying products insisted his salesmen had "strict guidelines" to follow when dealing with customers.
David Waters, of Manwick Road, Felixstowe, was the sole director of Anchor Mobility Ltd, which sold specialised furniture including reclining chairs, sofas and beds.
It is alleged that customers paid Waters for furniture they never received and that pressure was put on elderly and disabled clients by company salesmen.
More than 20 customers were allegedly left £82,000 out of pocket as a result of their dealings with Anchor Mobility, the court previously heard.
But taking the stand at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday as his defence opened, Waters said company salesmen were made to follow guidelines when meeting potential clients and never cold called customers.
Waters, 71, said the guidelines and principles were put in place by him because he wanted customers to be treated like "family members".
"They [the guidelines] were quite strict," he told the court.
"I wanted them in place because I wanted the customer to be treated as you would your father or grandfather. Like a family member."
Waters added that all his salesmen carried identification cards.
Waters also told the jury that even if Anchor Mobility products were outside their warranty period, his company would still visit homes to investigate any issues, but there was a £60 call-out fee and charges for any parts required.
Asked by Gareth Hughes, defending, if he ever took an order believing that he would not be able to fulfil it, Waters replied: "No, I didn't."
Waters also denied ever pressurising customers into purchases or instructing salesmen to put pressure on clients to buy products.
The jury saw a 10-minute video clip of a short film made by the company showing the process of visiting a potential client and undertaking a customer fitting.
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Waters told the court that "the norm" for customers was to pay a 50% deposit for products before settling the balance when the item was delivered and the customer "was happy with it".
MORE: Furniture firm allegedly left disabled and elderly customers £80k out of pocket, court hears
Earlier, Senior Trading Standards Officer Stuart Hughes was back on the stand.
The defence say Waters had full intention of resolving complaints prior to the interference of Suffolk Trading Standards.
They say Waters complained to trading standards that he wasn't being given the opportunity to resolve complaints because his mail was being withheld at the company's former virtual office in Kemp House, London.
The company running the service at Kemp House (Your Company Formations) had withdrawn the virtual office contract after becoming aware of the complaints.
Waters wanted to find out the nature of the complaints, made to Islington Trading Standards, because he wanted to resolve them, but was told he needed the express permission of the consumer.
Stuart Hughes said four of the complaints alleged criminal offences, so he wouldn't release details anyway. The five remaining complaints were to do with failure to deliver and timescale. Two had been resolved by delivery of the furniture or a refund.
In the following months, progress was made to resolve some, but not all complaints, so Stuart Hughes withdrew mediation because the expectation was that agreed action would take place relatively quickly.
Although Your Company Formations could forward mail held at Kemp House at that time to Waters' address in Felixstowe, but not any mail received thereafter - some of which, Waters believed, concerned his previous firm, Westminster Recliners.
Waters CCd Stuart Hughes into an email to Your Company Formations, asking trading standards to "understand the gravity of the situation" and confirm the forwarding address was acceptable in the short term.
Stuart Hughes said he didn't recall receiving the email, which he said was clearly referring to Islington Trading Standards, but that he had already set out very clearly, in a meeting with Mr Waters, that he had no influence over the contract he had with Your Company Formations.
Waters said he wanted to continue running Anchor Mobility in accordance with rules and regulations, and to resolve the complaints.
Efforts were made, said the defence, and 36 cheques were made out to 36 individuals between November 7, 2016 and January 24, 2017.
Waters had told Trading Standards that Anchor Mobility was "lenient" with cancellations. These were bespoke pieces of furniture, not covered by a 14-day cooling off period, but Waters said Anchor would, generally speaking, let people cancel.
The trial continues.