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Big fines in Stairlift Prosecution

Mon, 23 Mar 2015

A company that claimed to sell new Stannah Stairlifts to elderly Warwickshire residents actually sold them lifts which were made up of second hand parts, and in some cases were unsafe.

Warwickshire County Council's Trading Standards Service brought the successful prosecution after receiving complaints from Warwickshire consumers.

The company, J W Mobility claimed to be selling new Stannah Stairlifts, but the lifts supplied were instead made up of second hand parts of old Stannah Stairlifts, 'cut and shut' together, with rails supplied by another manufacturer.

Paul Nicholson of Classic Stairlifts Ltd, who supplied and fitted the Stairlifts, also claimed to be a member of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) and a signatory to their code of conduct when he was not.

Warwickshire County Councillor Les Caborn, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: "It is completely unacceptable for businesses to supply unsafe equipment and put elderly and vulnerable people at further risk. I am delighted that Warwickshire Trading Standards has taken this action to protect older and disabled people living in Warwickshire."

Warwickshire County Councillor Richard Chattaway, Chair of the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, added: "Warwickshire Trading Standards will continue to help ensure that that goods and service supplied by businesses are properly described and safe to use."

In the case of one stairlift sold to an elderly couple in their eighties, a report undertaken by an independent expert revealed a series of faults including the fact that the stairlift track system had been designed and built too large for the staircase so that the lower end of the hinged rail dug into the hall carpet, preventing it from rising properly; the hinge motor no longer lifted hinged rail track up and had to be assisted and lifted by hand to start the procedure; and the track obstructed the front door whenever the stairlift was downstairs and also whenever the hinge failed, which seriously  impeded emergency access.

Further, critical track joint bolts had been omitted at installation on every track joint; and the track had been cut and re-welded with poor quality welding. It was therefore unsafe to use.

Nuneaton Magistrates hearing the case said of the Director of J W Mobility, Mr. Richard Smith, that this was a very serious matter because it affected elderly vulnerable people, that the necessary checks were not made and that it affected not just one consumer, but several. Of Mr. Nicholson they added that he had put vulnerable elderly consumers at very serious risk, by fitting unsafe products in their homes.

At Nuneaton Magistrates Court on 10th March 2015, J W Mobility Ltd, trading as Mobility & Lifestyle, (branches in Bedworth, Atherstone, Hinckley, Rugby, Tamworth, Loughborough and Melton Mowbray) pleaded guilty to three consumer protection offences and were ordered to pay £9536.24. The company's director, Richard Smith was personally charged with falsely describing one stair lift for which he personally had been the salesman as new when it was made up of second hand parts, some of which dated back to 1999. He was ordered to pay £2322.08.

J W Mobility Ltd employed a subcontractor to supply/install the stair lifts but did not carry out proper checks on his qualifications or supervise the work and had no written contract to prove what was agreed between the two traders. Further, the installer was not an authorised Stannah Dealer.

The installer, Paul Nicholson, the sole director and owner of Classic Stairlifts Ltd pleaded guilty to one offence under the General Product Safety Regulations and received an eight week prison sentence suspended for 12 months. He also pleaded guilty to a further three consumer protection offences and was ordered to pay a total of £4663.32 in fines and costs.

The company, Classic Stairlifts Ltd of Hednesford, Staffs also pleaded guilty to four consumer protection charges and were ordered to pay a total of £11,536.24.

Mr. Smith admitted he had failed to supervise the contracts or make appropriate checks on his supplier. Mr. Nicholson apologised for misleading the public by claiming to be a signatory of a code of conduct, when he was not.


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