THE former director of a fitted furniture company has been fined £370 and ordered to pay back the £1,500 deposit he received for joinery work he failed to complete.

Barrie Soulsby, of Swinside Drive, Durham, appeared before magistrates in Peterlee following an investigation by Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team.

The court heard Soulsby, 55, had quoted a couple £3,300 to make and install a window seat, desk, bench and cupboard system in their living room, along with a new meter box and bathroom storage unit, in September 2018.

Soulsby, who lived in Spennymoor and was a director of 360 Interiors (North East) Limited at the time, later reduced the price to £3,000 and received a £1,500 payment upfront on the understanding the work would be completed before Christmas.

Magistrates heard that Soulsby failed to show up to begin the work on December 5 as planned and, when contacted by the couple, was told the job needed to be reschedule to January.

The couple felt this was unacceptable and asked for their deposit back, but Soulsby claimed he had spent this on their bespoke furniture.

He said he would carry out the work between Christmas and New Year but did not honour this arrangement and rebooked it for January 14, 2019.

Soulsby did not attend on this date, citing health and vehicle issues, and also failed to show up on January 28.

When he did finally attend on February 11 to fit some cabinet carcasses, the couple discovered the furniture was the wrong depth, therefore not bespoke, and of a poor quality.

Soulsby never returned to complete the job and the couple reported him to the council.

Trading Standards officers could not find any evidence that Soulsby had ordered the couple’s bespoke furniture, despite contacting the businesses he had put forward.

Soulsby pleaded guilty to breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

In mitigation, his solicitor said he had been experiencing personal difficulties at the time and was struggling to deal with an increased workload. She said Soulsby was willing to pay back the couple’s deposit in instalments.

Magistrates imposed a £370 fine and ordered Soulsby to pay costs of £320 and £1,500 in compensation.

Joanne Waller, head of community protection at Durham County Council, said: “Unfair commercial practices such as this are unacceptable and not only leave consumers out of pocket, but can cause a great deal of stress and worry.

“This case should remind traders that they have a responsibility to trade fairly and honestly and, if they fail to do so, they should expect to face the consequences.”

To find out more about Trading Standards and how to report concerns about unfair commercial practise visit or call the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808-2231133.