Firm preyed on vulnerable

Christopher Hayball
Christopher Hayball

A Derbyshire mobility aid firm which preyed on vulnerable people has been banned from using unfair and misleading sales practices.

Directors of Optimum Care Mobility Limited - including one currently in jail for sexually assaulting an 89-year-old woman - have been slapped with court orders by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The Ripley-based business sold mobility aids such as stairlifts, scooters and specialist chairs, across the country.

Former director Christopher Hayball, of Mansfield Road, Heath, was jailed for three years and three months last December after pretending to be a GP and assaulting an 89-year-old woman suffering from dementia.

Hayball also admitted a similar assault on a 74-year-old woman in Eastwood.

The OFT feared elderly and disabled people were being misled by the company.

Offences included falsely claiming the firm was connected to the NHS and qualified to make medical judgments, persistent and unwanted telesales calls, excessively long sales visits and not honouring legal rights to cancel purchases.

Cavendish Elithorn, OFT senior director of the goods and consumer group said: “This action demonstrates the OFT’s ongoing commitment to tackle unscrupulous behaviour in the mobility aids sector.

“We also found examples of people paying much more for products they could have bought more cheaply elsewhere.

“These practices are unacceptable and we are pleased that the court granted the enforcement orders we sought.”

The OFT worked closely with Derbyshire County Council’s Trading Standards department during its investigation.

The enforcement orders prevent the company and Hayball from engaging in practices that breach consumer protection and consumer credit laws, including the conduct described above.

The OFT also secured similar enforcement orders in April against Gary Frederick Price, and Linda Anne Price, both also former directors at Optimum.

The firm went into liquidation in February.

Vulnerable victims of Optimum Care Mobility Limited have described how they faced misleading and persistent sales practices.

Many had unwanted telesales calls and excessively long sales visits.

One victim, who did not want to be named said: “The sales representative had been in my home for around four hours and so to get rid of him I paid a deposit.

“I did not have the means to pay but I felt it was the only way to get rid of him.”

Another added: “The representatives were at the house for two to three hours which concerned me as both my father and mother are in ill health.

“She believed they were from the council to assess her mobility.”

A third victim told how the sales representative upset their mother.

They added: “My mother was getting very upset but thought she should sign the contract just so the representative would leave.”