A rogue Wigan plumber who presented fake endorsements to his customers and carried out unregistered gas work has avoided a term in jail.
But Rhys Lavin has been hit with a big court costs bill and a ban from being a company director for five years.
The 27-year-old, already branded an “unscrupulous trader” by council chiefs – claimed that his Hindley firm Phet Ltd was “Gas Safe-registered” and “NICEIC-approved” on the yell.com website, when this was not the case, a Bolton Crown Court judge heard.
This contravened the “requirements of professional diligence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, and which materially distorted the economic behaviour of the average consumer.”
In other words they were more likely to fork out for his services because they had been impressed by his bogus credentials.
And after claiming he was Gas Safe-registered, he then began to carry out gas work at a property in Warrington in September last year.
The plumber, of Wigan Road, Hindley, was prosecuted as an individual and faced three identical charges as the representative of the company also.
The quality of the work completed has not been called into question in the case.
After pleading guilty to the offences at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court last month, his company website continued to carry the following blurb in answer to the question “Why choose Phet?”: “Our friendly, efficient and fully qualified team of engineers are Gas Safe-registered, trained to the highest standards and proud of their reputation for high quality and professional workmanship.”
Among its services the firm said its carries out new boiler installations, boiler repair, central heating installations and issuing gas safety certificates.
But now he has been sentenced, the website appears to have been taken down.
Lavin was handed an eight-month prison term for his crimes, which were suspended for 18 months. He was also hit with a 20-day rehabilitation order and ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
The judge also ordered that Lavin pay £1,900 in court costs and he was disqualified from acting as a company director for five years.
After Lavin pleaded guilty, Julie Middlehurst, service manager for regulatory services at Wigan Council, said: “Our trading standards team work hard to support and protect residents from unscrupulous traders and will where necessary, take action through the courts.
“Wigan Council’s Good Trader Scheme has around 200 reputable local businesses, and we would encourage residents to use this scheme if considering having work done to their property.”
Coun Carl Sweeney, cabinet member for environment, said: “This was a very serious case and could have resulted in a serious gas explosion risking the life of the resident. Our trading standards team work hard to support and protect residents from rogue traders, and will where necessary, take action through the courts.
“Comments were made to officers during the investigation by Rhys Lavin including ‘A pipe… is a pipe’ and ‘Shoulda woulda coulda.’ This showed a complete disregard for the seriousness of his actions, when he knowingly carrying out unqualified gas repairs.”
Wigan trading standard officers are urging residents to consult the local good trader scheme to find reputable businesses.