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Click on the cover to view as a virtual edition:
JUNE 2024
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Fairlocks Pool Products
Bosses Of 'Rogue' Hot Tub Company Appear In Court
Jurors at Stafford Crown Court have been told how bosses of a company supplying UK consumers with hot tubs cheated both customers and suppliers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Following numerous complaints, SPN first reported on the firm, Staffordshire based Spa Serve (also known under the name Trade Price Group) back in 2010. The prosecution have alleged that the company was being used as a "cash cow" by those running it, demanding payments up front for hot tubs. But instead of using the money to fulfil orders, bosses spent the money on themselves, enjoying lavish lifestyles, expensive cars and holidays.

Main shareholder Simon Foster, partner Simon Cox and office manager Jonathan Husselbee are on trial accused of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to defraud. All three have denied the charges.

Mr Adrian Keeling QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "It was not run as a proper and honest business, it was run, first and foremost, as a source of income for these defendants. It was run as a 'cash cow' and a cash cow to be milked," adding: "Their purpose wasn't to trade responsibly, to give the customer what they ordered, on time and working properly. It was run with the simple aim of making these defendants money."

He described how Spa Serve had a website which offered cut price hot tubs and how a salesperson would visit anyone who made an enquiry, with customers who signed up paying for their hot tub up front, long before any delivery.

The money received should have been used to pay for the hot tubs which were ordered from a Chinese supplier and there should have been enough to fulfil all orders, however in just three or so years of trading, Spa Serve received approximately £6.5m worth of orders but in 2010 it went in to liquidation with debts of around £2.7m.

Mr Keeling alleged customers were told lies to encourage them to sign on the dotted line and to stop them taking money out of the business by cancelling orders.

Some of the "lies" included advising customers that the hot tubs were made in American, rather than in China, what parts and extras came with the hot tubs plus expected delivery and installing times.

The Stafford jury were also advised that Spa Serve was not the first company Simon Foster was involved with to have gone bankrupt. He and his wife Katie were joint owners of a firm called Acara, which supplied hot tubs but went into liquidation in 2007 with debts of £500,000 and assets of just £200.

"It is the prosecution's case that when aware of what had gone wrong with Acara, he then proceeded to set up this new company Spa Serve, on a strikingly similar basis. There was no effort at all to learn from his mistakes,” Said Mr Keeling adding: “Running it to destruction and at the same time paying yourself a small fortune is not the action of an honest business."

Mr Keeling claimed Spa Serve's customers were treated with contempt and those who did complain were treated cynically.

"Some people waited and waited and when they did complain, they were pointed to the small print. They were told they couldn't cancel, they couldn't get their money back.

"Those who instructed solicitors had to fight right the way to the doors of the county court before any money was handed back to them," Mr Keeling told the jury.

Evidence for the prosecution will come from numerous customers, industry experts and former employees and the trial is expected to last for a number of weeks.

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