The conviction follows an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team
A man and his company who misled disabled people into paying £49 a time for Blue Badge parking permits was sentenced to financial penalties totalling £15,457.35 today (29 March 2017) at York Magistrates’ Court.
Ramiro Rohan Depass, aged 23, of Thameshill Avenue, Romford, Essex, pleaded guilty to misleading consumers by using copycat websites to sell Blue Badge parking permits, contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. He was fined £1,230, ordered to pay £5,139.98 compensation to 102 of his victims, and pay prosecution costs of £4,847.37 and a victim surcharge to the court of £120. His company, Impetus Solutions Limited, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120.
Depass’s activities came to light after over 100 complaints were made to the Citizens Advice and Action Fraud helplines over an eight-month period in 2015/16, triggering an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team.
Depass’s scheme worked by diverting those searching online for Blue Badges to apply via his own website, meaning that badges were never issued. Disabled drivers were charged £49 for these non-existent badges, which are normally bought from the local council for £10.
In April 2016, officers from the National Trading Standards eCrime Team (NTSeCT) raided a house in Romford and found documents linking Depass to the scam. He presented himself to police later that week.
Mike Andrews, National eCrime Co-ordinator, said:
“I’m glad the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which is hosted here in North Yorkshire, has stopped another copycat operator from profiting from vulnerable consumers. If you live in North Yorkshire, you can check your eligibility for a Blue Badge by visiting www.northyorks.gov.uk/bluebadge or www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge.”
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“Copycat websites such as these seek to profit from people looking for legitimate services online. If you ever need to search for government services, don’t use a search engine, and remember that just because a website appears at the top of an internet search it may not be the best one to use. Go to gov.uk and search there instead. Anyone who comes across a copycat website can report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.”
Blue Badges entitle disabled drivers to free parking in pay and display bays and allow them to park in specially-designated zones. Genuine Blue Badge parking permits cost no more than £10 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and £20 in Scotland. Anyone can check their eligibility and apply for a Blue Badge parking permit at www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge.