A builder who had defrauded customers out of thousands of pounds has been jailed for 12 months.

Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team took legal action against Paul Phillips, 64, of Brackenfield Road, Framwellgate Moor, who appeared at Durham Crown Court.

The court heard that, in June 2019, a customer contacted Phillips about repairs to his shed roof.

On the date of the arranged repair, in July 2019, Phillips contacted the customer and offered to sell them a new shed that had become available and quoted £1,250 for the sale and installation.

However, on the date the shed was to be delivered, the customer received another call to say Phillips’ mother had died overnight and in his place someone else would be organised to deliver and install the shed.

The shed never materialised and when the customer requested a refund they were refused.

In an interview with Trading Standards officers, Phillips admitted that he had not ordered a shed and had lied to the customer about this.

Later that year, another customer had contacted Phillips about a single-storey extension to his home in Hartlepool.

Phillips visited the property and quoted £17,800 which was reduced to £15,000 and a fee of £640 for building control.

During the discussion, it was requested that the works be completed by Christmas and this was agreed at the beginning of August 2019.

The following September, Phillips advised that building control approval had been granted but failed to provide documentation despite a request.

Phillips also did not work on the extension and his son worked on the site in his absence from October 2019.

After it became apparent the work was not progressing as agreed, Phillips provided the customer with a number of reasons for the lack of progress but guaranteed the work would be concluded by 1 December 2019.

By 19 December 2019, the work had still not been completed. The customer arranged for a building inspector who attended the property on 23 December 2019 and advised that the works were not authorised, and the structure had to be taken down to damp-proof level.

A total of £12,700 had been paid to Phillips and the customer was forced to pay another £4,000 to a new builder to rectify work carried out.

In two other separate complaints in 2019, Phillip had charged customers to upgrade or replace windows in their properties.

However, when the work was due to be carried out, the customers were contacted with reasons why Phillips could not carry out the work including supplier issues, mixed up dates, accidents involving his van and being involved in charity walks.

The customers were offered refunds that they either did not receive or were refunded with cheques that bounced back.

Phillips pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and misleading commercial practice and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “This trader’s activity not only fraudulently removed thousands of pounds out of the pockets of unwitting customers, but caused a great deal of stress, damage and mistrust for the victims involved.

“Unfair commercial practices such as these are unacceptable and we will continue to investigate any suspected fraudulent activity or misleading practices. This case shows that traders have a responsibility to trade fairly, and those who do not should expect to face the consequences of their actions.”

To find out more about the work of the council’s Trading Standards team, and to report concerns of unfair commercial practices, visit www.durham.gov.uk/tradingstandards