Three individuals and a company have been found guilty of 34 offences for conning people into paying for overpriced, ineffective or unnecessary home improvement work and taking payment for work that was never even started. The convictions were handed down at Birmingham Crown Court on 31 January following an investigation by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team in Central England, hosted by Birmingham City Council.
The work focused on wall and roof coatings and solar panel batteries with claims that they would improve energy efficiency and reduce bills. The three defendants, from Stourport on Severn in Worcestershire, will be sentenced on 24 April after:
- Adrian Hillman (aged 44) was found guilty of 12 offences
- Rebecca Hillman (aged 45) was found guilty of eight offences
- Philip Farrington (aged 61) was found guilty of 10 offences
- Energenie Shield UK Ltd (of which Adrian Hillman was the sole director) was found guilty of four offences
The guilty verdicts follow an eight-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, which heard evidence from 51 victims.
The court heard how Mr and Mrs Hillman – who are husband and wife – were involved in multiple companies including Ecoshield (UK) Ltd and Energenie Shield UK Ltd that cold-called victims by phone or on people’s doorsteps. The companies provided wall and roof coatings as well as batteries to be retro-fitted to existing solar panels, which had been mis-sold to consumers with false claims to persuade them to have the work done. These included spurious claims that the wall and roof coatings would significantly reduce the consumers’ heating bills and that having the solar panel batteries would remove them from the national grid.
The defendants also refused to refund customers’ money when they cancelled within their cancellation period or because the work was never started. This was particularly prevalent with the solar batteries: the Court heard from more than 45 consumers who had paid money over but had never had the work completed or their money returned.
The victims targeted by the perpetrators were predominantly older people or people living in vulnerable situations, with a significant number aged in their 80s and 90s. The defendants were variously charged with offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Companies Act 2006 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“With more than 50 victims providing evidence in court and 34 guilty verdicts, the scale of this case demonstrates consistent dishonesty and deceit to mislead victims. I would like to congratulate the investigators involved and would like to thank all the victims who came forward to share the story with the court.
“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 calling 03454 04 05 06.”
Adrian Hillman, who had a previous conviction for a similar matter, was told by the judge, HHJ Mukherjee, that he had been found guilty of some extremely serious offences on a large scale and that he should expect a significant custodial sentence. He was remanded in custody pending sentencing.
Rebecca Hillman was told that she had been fraudulently trading over a significant period of time, but she was allowed to remain on bail with severe conditions, including having to surrender her passport and be subject to an electronically monitored curfew.
Philip Farrington was also given bail, although HHJ Mukherjee told him that he, too, had played a role across two companies and had been involved with significant and prolonged dishonesty. Mr Farrington was given similar bail conditions as Rebecca Hillman.
Sentencing will take place at Birmingham Crown Court on 24th April.
Notes to Editors
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.