London memorial stonemason appeals fine for ‘misleading grieving customers’
A London memorial mason and one of its directors pleaded guilty to eight offences relating to trading practices under consumer protection legislation at a hearing at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on 21 April 2016.
The memorial masonry company and its director were both fined £5,000 each and ordered to pay £1,859 in compensation to a customer after it emerged the company had claimed membership to the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM), the only trade association for this business sector. The firm was also told to reimburse council costs of £1,954 and a victim surcharge of £120, bringing the total penalty to £13,933.
Following a complaint from the customer about the quality of its work, it emerged the business had not been a NAMM member since 2010, despite claiming to be on its website and displaying two prominent logos on its shop front in west London.
The Court had heard that the company had been commissioned to work on the family memorial based on their claim to NAMM affiliation by means of two large logos prominently positioned on the front of their shop. But the customer complained about the poor workmanship and quality of the inscription and asked the company to refer the resulting dispute to NAMM for arbitration under their membership rules.
It was at this point the company admitted it was not a member of NAMM.
However, the director, while accepting the wrongdoing, says he intends to appeal against the size of the fine, saying it is a punishment that does not fit the crime and could have a significant effect on the small business. He added that he was never intentionally dishonest and explained in court that leaving the logo displayed was an oversight. He said the logos were removed as soon as he realised the error.
He told getwestlondon: “It is right to say that the continued use of the NAMM logo (shop front and website) after we had disaffiliated with NAMM could fall into these offences. It was right to plead guilty straight away. I accepted responsibility, and still do so. I apologise to any customers who were misled and am only appealing against the sentence (in total, almost £14,000) following legal advice.”
He added that the quality of the work the company produced for the unhappy customer was never pursued by Trading Standards and that he had never received any other complaints about unfit work.
The company and its director have since appealed against the sentence which is due to be determined at the Crown Court in June.
The company continues to be a BRAMM (British Register of Accredited Monumental Masons) affiliated company.
Cllr Ranjit Dheer, cabinet member for safety, culture and community services, said the outcome was “an excellent example of the council’s work to protect consumers” and that the error had “intensified their grief and vulnerability at a time when they warranted compassion and understanding”.
Philip Charles Potts, NAMM’s national executive officer, said “We support and welcome this robust action by Ealing Council. NAMM membership gives the public and individuals, as a time when they are most vulnerable, a quality assurance about its member masons.
“The misuse of our logo to falsely claim affiliation harms both consumers and our legitimate professional members. We encourage anyone affected by or aware of such malpractices to report the matter to trading standards and NAMM.”
For more information about Ealing trading standards service, please visit www.ealing.gov.uk/tradingstandards.
To report concerns about businesses and fake goods in the borough, email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8825 6086.