An East Riding couple have been banned from selling tractors and agricultural machinery to members of the public after the “shoddy” running of their business misled customers from around the world.
Alan Farrow, a director of QF Tractors Ltd and Christine Farrow, a former director of the company, both of Canal Head, Pocklington appeared at the county court in Leeds on Wednesday, 3 October where they admitted nine allegations of contempt of court.
The case was brought against the Farrows by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s trading standards after they failed on two occasions to keep legally binding promises not to make misleading statements when selling tractors or other forms of agricultural machinery.
The Farrows had first come to the attention of trading standards in 2005 and made their first undertaking in 2011 after a number of complaints from customers claiming they had been sold goods that were wrongly described and of a poor quality.
In 2015, the Farrows found themselves before the courts after officers had received the same types of complaints as before but this time they were not just from the UK but also from Europe and Africa.
They made a legally binding undertaking to the court not to mislead customers.
But just over a year later, the complaints started again from customers who had bought tractors and agricultural machinery that had been advertised in national farming publications.
Complaints ranged from one customer in Cambridge who paid £8,500 for two pick-up trucks that never arrived as well as a customer in Bognor Regis who spent £14,500 of a four-wheel drive forklift truck which, when arrived was found not to be in working order.
Another customer in Nottingham bought a tractor for £12,950 from the QF Tractor website when it arrived, and despite assurances the leak in the hydraulic pipe would be repaired, on delivery it was found to be in poor working order and to have an oil leak and the condition of the vehicle indicated it had not been serviced.
One customer, who was based in Milton Keynes bought two tractors for £14,000 and had them shipped to Zanzibar Port in Tanzania but when they were delivered he found that one of the tractors was an older, inferior model and not the one he had purchased.
In County Donegal, a customer had to pay out an extra 1,200 Euros in repairs after the tractor he bought had mechanical issues while another bought tractors on behalf of his family based in Chad so they could fulfil a farming contract with the Chad government.
Again these vehicles were not fit for purpose when they arrived in Chad and the family lost the contract.
Acting for the Farrows, barrister Ashley Serr, told the court the recent complaints had come after their sons, who had been running the company, left in 2017.
He also said that since the contempt of court charges were brought, the Farrows had contacted all the complainants and had settled all the outstanding issues with their customers and that while Mrs Farrow acknowledged her responsibility as a director, but stated she was not involved in the day to day running of the company and had recently stepped down from her position.
The court was also told that the Farrows were intending to change their business model so they would now only trade with other dealers in agricultural machinery directly and at auctions and therefore not dealing with members of the farming community or the general public.
His Honour Judge Andrew Saffman, said: “There has been a course of conduct of shoddy practices since 2005 and members of the public have continually been ripped off.
“There is evidence to show you have repaid customers who have been disadvantaged by shoddy work practices.
“You have failed to comply with the undertakings given twice to the local authority and these breaches have resulted in a contempt of court – you have acted in stark contradiction of the promises made to the courts.”
The judge ordered the Farrows be subject of a 10-year injunction which bans them from advertising the sale of, or selling directly to the public farm and plant machinery, cars, motorcycles, buses and coaches as well as light, medium or heavy goods vehicles.
If they wish to sell any of the items listed they will have to use an auction house but they are allowed to sell cars which the Farrows have owned for personal use direct to the public.
The judge also fined Alan Farrow £22,500 and Christine Farrow was fined £7,500 and they have to pay costs totalling £20,908.33.
Tina Holtby, interim public protection group manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The Farrows have persistently operated in an unprofessional manner by misleading members of the farming community for years causing large amounts of financial harm, stress and inconvenience.
“The outcome of the court hearing sends out a clear message that businesses that ignore enforcement action from both the local authority and the courts will not be tolerated.”