Heat pump installer guilty of fraudulent trading

heat pump
Image: Dreamstime/Picudio

A heating and air conditioning trader has pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading after being prosecuted for mis-selling heat pumps and taking payment for work he did not carry out.

Adrian Miles, trading as Duchy Eco Heating, received a 20-month suspended prison sentence at Truro Crown Court. He will also have to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Miles had previously been registered on fluorinated gas (F-Gas) register REFCOM, but was suspended for failing to undergo a compulsory safe refrigerant handling audit.

The suspension came following a tip-off from a refrigerant supplier who had grown suspicious of his apparent lack of technical knowledge.

REFCOM discovered that Miles had been passing off a subcontractor as a member of staff and removed him from the register. It then contacted Cornwall Trading Standards, which had also received 14 customer complaints about Duchy Eco Heating. Cornwall Trading Standards and REFCOM worked together to build a legal case against Miles. 

Miles was found to have misled customers about the suitability of the heat pump systems he installed in their homes and failed to provide remedial work and servicing under warranty. He had also taken deposits for work he then failed to carry out and had falsely claimed that his business was properly certified.

Past frustrations over enforcement

Cornwall councillor Martyn Alvey said the actions of Miles were “totally unacceptable… I hope this acts as a warning to others that we will not hesitate to prosecute when traders operate illegally”.

Graeme Fox, technical director at REFCOM, added: “We are delighted to see this case come to a satisfactory conclusion. The F-Gas regulations were introduced to ensure responsible use of environmentally damaging substances and ensure they are only ever handled by properly qualified and registered companies and individuals. 

“This case has perfectly demonstrated how REFCOM will act whenever we are tipped off about anyone flouting the rules.”

A group of contractors who wanted to demonstrate their commitment to high professional standards and responsible refrigerant handling set up REFCOM in 1996. It became the country’s mandatory register in 2009 when the UK adopted the European F-Gas Regulation.

Rachel Davidson, director of certification at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), which oversees REFCOM, said the register’s members had sometimes been frustrated by the apparent lack of enforcement of the F-Gas regulations in the past.

She said: “As well as endangering the public, it puts our members at a commercial disadvantage because unregistered firms like this one get away with not investing in technical and safety training or the systems needed to manage refrigerant gas safely and responsibly.

“We are delighted that an example is being made of this company and hope this will make others think again about putting the quality of services and products at risk, endangering lives and property, and undermining the UK’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

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  1. Well, it was always going to happen. The reality is that whatever you bring in, someone will always think the rules don’t apply to them.

    What should also be investigated is the cost of these pumps and associated apparatus, as that seems pretty criminal too…!

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