Stoke-on-Trent City Council has welcomed the jail sentence handed to a builder who took thousands of pounds off customers without carrying out any work.
Michael Ratcliffe, of Burtree Drive, Norton Heights, pleaded guilty to four counts under the Fraud Act 2006 after failing to complete jobs that had been paid for. He received a three-year prison sentence at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Monday, March 4.
The city council’s trading standards team took action against Ratcliffe after receiving complaints from a number of concerned residents, and began an investigation to build a case around the 50-year-old, which culminated in a custodial sentence. The complaints were made by residents of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Moorlands.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard between March 2014 and June 2016, Ratcliffe was the director of two limited companies, GFM (Stoke-on-Trent) Limited and FGM Ratcliffe. Trading Standards started to receive complaints about him in 2015. Trading standards investigations found the loss to the customers was £100,000 but the amount Ratcliffe sought to gain was higher at £130,000.
Cllr Randy Conteh, the council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “This prosecution highlights the dedicated and important work of our trading standards team. This type of fraud can have a devastating impact on the finances and lives of the victims, who in this case will continue to suffer financially for some time as they will have to find additional funds to pay for work to be completed or put right.
“We welcome the sentence handed out in court, and particularly how much weight the judge gave to the impact Ratcliffe’s actions have had on people’s lives. This is a really good example of consumer protection in practice, and shows our commitment to ensuring consumers can have confidence in the traders they employ, and taking action against dishonest traders. It is worth reminding residents that the vast majority of traders are law-abiding, however, we are here for the public if they become concerned.”
Advice for residents on dealing with suspected dishonest traders:
- never agree to have work done or part with money on your doorstep
- always get written quotes from at least two traders for any work
- you have 14 days to cancel any purchase of goods or services over £42 that you make in your home
- always agree the price, payment arrangements and start/finish dates in writing before any work starts on your home
- you don't have to pay in full until you're completely satisfied with the work and you could consider using stage payments throughout the work
- if you think you've been deceived, are concerned about a trader, or have any doubts, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506
Call the press office on 01782 232987.