Aggressive fish seller who scammed elderly jailed for eight months

A fish seller who sold poor-quality fish to elderly people using aggressive business tactics handed an eight month custodial sentence.

A mobile fish seller was handed an eight month custodial sentence yesterday at Teesside Crown Court for selling poor-quality fish to elderly people using aggressive, misleading, and unfair selling and business practices through his company, Trawler Fresh Limited.

Between May 2019 and May 2020, Brian Pendlington, 43, of the Oval, Ouston, Chester-Le-Street, County Durham, caused 28 victims to lose more than £6,000 between them. The average age of his victims was 70 years old. Many lived alone and some were suffering from serious health conditions.

Mr Pendlington was also handed an unlimited Criminal Behaviour Order, preventing him from doorstep selling.

Mr Pendlington previously pleaded guilty to the offence of contravening professional diligence, contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, on 20 June 2022 at Teesside Crown Court. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council took the prosecution after an investigation by the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team.

Since July 2013, Mr Pendlington has been warned repeatedly about his behaviour and has been offered advice and support to help him meet his legal responsibilities. After complaints about Pendlington persisted, the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team investigated him further, finding that he:

  • Sourced fish cheaply and sold it at exorbitantly high prices
  • Sold primarily to elderly people
  • Used misleading and aggressive sales techniques
  • Continued to operate during the first Covid-19 lockdown, taking advantage of the fact that many older people were finding it difficult getting to the shops.

Mr Pendlington, who targeted victims across the Midlands and the North of England, operated with total disregard for the quality of the fish he was supplying and the safety of his customers. Trawler Fresh Limited had no safety procedures in place and broke the law by failing to properly record the temperature at which the fish was stored, label what the fish was and where it had come from or provide use-by dates. An expert found some of the fish was unfit for human consumption.

One victim, who was 71 and lived alone, was pressurised into purchasing around 40 packs of fish for £495, which were loaded into her freezer by a salesman who didn’t give her the chance to inspect her purchase. Another, who suffered a similar experience and was charged £195, described feeling violated and vulnerable in her own home.

Victims felt they had no choice but to pay. Where returns were requested, victims were told that this was not possible as the “chill chain” had been broken because the fish had been placed in their freezer. In some cases, Pendlington repeatedly failed to provide receipts or cancellation rights, and those who did attempt to cancel or complain rarely received a response.

Seven other mobile fish sellers from the North East have been identified, convicted and sentenced after prosecutions brought by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, following investigations by the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team.

Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:

“Aggressive and misleading sales tactics can cause considerable emotional as well as financial distress. In this case, the criminal targeted elderly and vulnerable people demonstrating a total disregard for the quality of his product and the wellbeing of his customers, many of whom were reliant on a pension and could ill-afford to lose the money they did.

“The use of these techniques will not be tolerated and we continue to take action against criminals trading in the mobile fish selling industry. I congratulate all involved for their ongoing work to identify suspects and bring enforcement action.

“We are determined to stop individuals like this ripping off vulnerable people. If you have been a victim or know someone who has, you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133. That way we can stop this happening in your neighbourhood.”

Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact the National Trading Standards press office by emailing or calling 020 7101 5013

About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality and by providing a “safety net” to limit unsafe consumer goods entering the UK and protecting food supplies by ensuring the animal feed chain is safe.