Criminal trader from County Durham receives custodial sentence
A mobile fish seller from Chester-le-Street, County Durham has been handed a custodial sentence at Teesside Crown Court after contravening the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Douglas Hubble (aged 58, of 6 Hillside, Chester-le-Street) received an eight-month custodial sentence and a seven-year Criminal Behavioural Order preventing him from selling door-to-door on behalf of himself or others.
Between February 2017 and April 2019, Hubble sold fish door-to-door to consumers across the North East through his business ‘Dougie’s Packs’ which sparked a number of complaints. An investigation was carried out by National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (North East), which found evidence that Hubble knowingly adopted criminally high-pressure sales techniques targeting elderly and vulnerable consumers as a business strategy on nine separate occasions, for his own financial gain.
Through the use of aggressive, misleading and unfair selling and business practices, Douglas Hubble caused financial loss of approximately £920 over a 26-month period to ten unknowing, vulnerable consumers in their own homes. Hubble pleaded guilty on 23 July 2021.
Local trading standards have continued to work with mobile fish sellers over the years in order to highlight illegal practices and bring about change through education. However, Hubble chose to ignore guidance that he received from Durham County Council about the practices of door-to-door fish sellers and the applicable legislation. He transported the fish in a vehicle that was not refrigerated, had flies around the rear of the vehicle and had a strong smell of spoilt fish.
The sentencing of Hubble is part of a wider crackdown on the mobile fish selling industry across North East England by National Trading Standards. In addition to Hubble, a further six criminal fish traders from the North East have been convicted of knowingly and recklessly flouting consumer protection regulations since 2019, with several more cases pending. All were found guilty of using similar high-pressure sales techniques that left victims feeling uncomfortable and intimidated in their own homes.
These misleading sales tactics include:
- Targeting the elderly and the vulnerable, many with serious health conditions, as they were generally less likely to question the nature of the transactions or complain
- Supplying poor quality fish, sometimes so poor that it was unfit for human consumption
- Supplying unlabelled and unidentifiable fish, contrary to legal labelling requirements
- Supplying excessive quantities of fish by delivering them into a victim’s home without permission
- Charging exorbitant prices and taking payment without permission or without ever telling victims the price
- Making false and misleading statements about the nature of the fish being sold.
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:
“Unscrupulous sales tactics can cause considerable emotional as well as financial distress to those affected. In this case, the defendant intimidated a number of elderly and vulnerable victims in their own homes and pressurised them to make a purchase at an exorbitant price.
“The use of these techniques will not be tolerated. We continue to take action against criminal traders in the mobile fish selling industry in order to curtail their unlawful activity and protect consumers. I congratulate the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team North East for their ongoing work to identify suspects and bring enforcement action.
“If you or someone you know, has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling0808 223 1133.”
Other convictions of criminal mobile fish traders in the North East include:
- Earlier this year, Matthew Dudding, Paul Dudding, and Daniel Whitley were sentenced to a combined total of 8 years at Teesside Crown Court after using aggressive sales practices to pressure over 100 elderly victims into purchasing excessive quantities of poor-quality fish at exorbitant prices.
- In 2020, John Mills, based in Chester-le-Street, was handed a custodial sentence for repeatedly used aggressive, unfair and dishonest selling practices to force more than 80 customers to buy large quantities of unwanted fish that was often unfit for human consumption.
- In 2019, Adam Brown from Chester-le-Street, County Durham was convicted of contravening consumer protection regulations after using a number of illegal sales techniques to exploit consumers, resulting in nearly £8,500 lost by consumers from nearly 60 transactions.
Notes to Editors
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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.