Charity in Stevenage duped by �33,000 scam

A CHARITY has been duped by a scam and locked into a seven-year contract worth more than �33,000, for a telephone system it never signed up to. Con merchants working under the name BC Telecoms targeted Martins House on Jessop Road in Stevenage and persuad

A CHARITY has been duped by a scam and locked into a seven-year contract worth more than �33,000, for a telephone system it never signed up to.

Con merchants working under the name BC Telecoms targeted Martins House on Jessop Road in Stevenage and persuaded a manager to sign a contract for one new telephone handset.

David Wall, chairman of trustees for Chauncy Housing Association Ltd, which manages the residential home, said: "They said all companies will have to switch telephones from analogue to digital within the next three years.

"They had a look around and said there was one handset which would need to be replaced, and that was it."


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A manager signed for the one new handset and for the digital switchover, which BC Telecoms had promised for free.

Subsequently about 28 handsets were delivered to Martins House. When Mr Wall returned them and explained it was not what they had ordered, the phones came back again, with a note explaining that the company was not authorised to accept returns.

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Chauncy Housing Association Ltd, a registered charity, was shown a copy of the signed contract. Mr Wall said: "It had been filled out, because originally there were lots of blank sections. It's a lease for a telephone system."

The contract has since been sold to ING Lease (UK) Ltd. "We have told them everything, but they said they have a valid lease and we will have to pay," said Mr Wall. "They have now filed legal papers at Leeds County Court for lease non-payment."

A spokesman for ING Lease (UK) Ltd said: "The case is subject to litigation so we have no comment at this stage."

The housing association has reported the fraud to Hertfordshire Trading Standards, but has been told it has no means of recourse through the Consumer Credit Act because the Act only covers claims under �30,000 for a limited company.

"We are absolutely stuck," said Mr Wall. "We made the mistake of signing a form with lots of blank bits on it, but a lot of other people could have fallen into the trap.

"We were never in the market for a new telephone system, and we can't take action against B C Telecoms because it has gone. It has gone bust and the website has gone."

He added: "We haven't budgeted for it, but we are going to have to make a payment.

"It's not going to make us bankrupt, but any money we make goes into the upkeep of the home and improvements. The residents will be missing out."

A spokesman for Hertfordshire Trading Standards said: "We have given advice on options available to them.

"We would advise anyone to be extremely wary of entering any contract of this nature without first getting expert advice. This can be obtained by calling Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

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