A director of a failed building firm has been prosecuted by Dorset County Council’s Trading Standards after an investigation into false claims about major building work carried out at a local guest house.
On 20 October 2011, at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court, Martin Lobo aged 53 of Weymouth, pleaded guilty to two offences of ‘misleading advertising’ contrary to the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008. This involved stating that a replacement roof would be built to comply with the planning requirements of the conservation area it was in, and later telling the owner of Melcombe Villa Guest House that planning permission for replacement windows had been obtained when it had not.
Weyland Construction Limited started the work in November 2010 and Martin Lobo was a director of that company and personally made the misleading claims, before his company ceased trading.
Lobo was ordered to pay £5000 compensation to the owner of the guest house, prosecution costs to the county council of £596 and was given a two year conditional discharge on each of two offences.
The court heard how Mr Lobo had very clearly explained to the guest house owner that specific building materials would be needed for the job in order that planning permission could be granted, as the work was in a conservation area. These requirements included the need for the roof to be of natural slate and the dormer windows to be clad in lead.
Despite Lobo’s promises, Weyland Construction Ltd completed the job using cheaper alternatives, concrete tiles and fibreglass. During the rebuilding work, and with his company in financial difficulty, Lobo also falsely told the guest house owner that planning permission had been granted to replace the windows of the property, leading her to pay an instalment of £2125 to Lobo.
Magistrates were told that Lobo had substantial personal debts and a very low income. In his mitigation, Lobo said that this was not his normal business practice and he had completed many successful jobs over the years without complaint.
Ivan Hancock, trading standards service manager for Dorset County Council said: “Although the limited company may have ceased trading these were significant false claims which substantially misled another local business, costing them a large amount of money and inconvenience. This prosecution highlights that directors and key employees can still be called to account for committing unfair trading offences, such as making misleading claims, even when the company has gone into liquidation.”