AN ELDERLY Fareham couple who were doorstepped by a pushy heating system salesman had a lucky escape after Streetwise got on the case and helped them recover a £2,500 deposit.
Brian and Jennifer Worsfold, who are both in their late 80s and in poor health, were knocked by a salesman from National Heating Solutions Ltd last July, and sat through two hours of sales patter before being pressured into parting with the money.
Housebound Brian, 86, said they’d previously received a number of unsolicited phone calls which they were given to believe were from British Gas, and someone would to be calling to give them advice on how to save on their energy bills.
He said: ‘Jen took about three of these calls so it came as no surprise when this man turned up to discuss our heating system.
‘We were still given to believe he was from British Gas until he pulled out his folders and started to persuade us our back boiler and radiators had seen better days and needed replacing.
‘He insisted spending £12,000 bringing our heating system up to date with a combination boiler and smaller energy efficient radiators and it made sound sense what with gas and electric prices rising every year for the foreseeable future.
‘To be honest as both of us are not in the best of health he just wore us down with all the sales patter.
‘When we said we were pensioners and didn’t have that kind of money to put about he said he might be able to do us a special deal and spread the cost over ten years. That way we’d be paying for the heating system upgrade out of the savings on our gas and electric bills.
‘He rang his office and told us he could knock £2,500 off the asking price if we agreed to sign up straight away and put down a £2,500 deposit.
‘After he gave us to understand we could just cancel the order if we changed our minds I gave him our bank debit card details just to get rid of him.’
The following day the couple asked their 58-year-old son David to drop by and let them know what he thought about the deal.
He discussed the pros and cons with them, pointing out their age was against making anything like the savings they’d been led to believe because the finance charges would more than offset any savings.
The following day they decided to cancel the order but they quickly found out it was easier said than done.
When Brian rang the firm’s contact number it went to voicemail. A determined Jennifer tried throughout the day and later the same evening, but still they couldn’t get anyone to call them back.
The National Heating Services rep had given them a cast-iron assurance the company had a 28-day refund policy, but when David attempted to step in on their behalf his cancellation emails and calls were ignored.
David told his parents to get in touch with Streetwise to see if we could help.
We told them as they’d been knocked by the rep he should have given them a statutory notice of their 14-day right of cancellation under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2014, and we’d look into the matter for them.
We ran the rule over the firm’s background and were not encouraged by what emerged.
It had one sole director, 51-year-old John Rowan, with an office in Blantyre, Glasgow.
Further enquires revealed he’d previously been behind another limited call centre company, JR Marketing Ltd. It was compulsorily shut down in 2017 and liquidated subsequent to a court order for insolvency.
When we tried to speak to him about Brian’s complaint, we found the phone line had been disconnected and our emails were undeliverable.
It wasn’t long before we discovered why.
National Heating Solutions Ltd had requested the accountant in bankruptcy in August 2018 to appoint liquidators and cease trading.
We looked through the liquidator’s administration statement of the firm’s assets and whether the Worsfolds’ deposit had been listed as an unsecured customer deposit in the firm’s accounts.
When we learned that there was no record of their deposit we asked Brian for permission to talk to his bank, HSBC about it.
We asked them to investigate, and it emerged that by a stroke of good luck the payment had been suspended while the bank waited to see if the company had been shut down.
It was formally dissolved last December, and as the bank concluded it had officially gone to the wall they were able to return the couple’s £2,500 payment.
They confirmed there’d been an administrative error and apologised for the delay.
Brian and Jennifer confirmed the money had reappeared in their account.
Brian said he was resigned to the fact they’d never see their money again, and the entire affair had been a worrying stressful experience.
He said: ‘We really couldn’t afford to lose so much of our meagre savings which to be honest was set aside to pay for our funeral arrangements.
‘We’d probably have got it back eventually, but if it hadn’t been for Streetwise following it up for us it might have taken a lot longer to come to light.’
A British Gas spokesperson was anxious to confirm the company doesn’t make random doorstep calls offering energy saving advice, and their people never visit homes without proof of identity.