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The Highland Council secures a court order against local hotel (25/03/11)
As a result of an investigation by Trading Standards Officers of The Highland Council into complaints received over significant period time about the Polmaily House Hotel, near Drumnadrochit, and the hotel operator’s continued involvement in a range of unfair business practices, the Council obtained a court order from Inverness Sheriff Court against the business on 23 March 2011.
The Order was made under the Enterprise Act 2002 and places specific requirements on the business and several individuals involved in it as to their future conduct.
Trading Standards had received a number of complaints either directly from disgruntled tourists or via Visit Scotland about the hotel and a detailed investigation into its activities followed. Evidence of a variety of breaches was found, including:
- false claims of Visit Scotland membership
- seriously misleading information on a website
- failures to provide promised facilities such as a supervised children's club, sauna and heated swimming pool
- failures to provide refunds owed to consumers
These and other similar practices were found to breach a number of consumer protection laws. The court order prohibits any repeat in the future.
Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager with The Highland Council said: Complaints about conduct of this nature in the tourist sector are certainly not common and where such matters do come to our attention we will always attempt to resolve the issue through the provision of advice and guidance. This hotel’s many failings have however ruined the holidays of a significant number of visitors to our area, which together with the hotel management’s failure to engage with less formal means of securing their future good conduct has resulted in court action. Tourism is an essential part of the Highland economy and we are determined to take action wherever necessary against the small minority of Highland tourist businesses that treat consumers badly.”
If anyone cited in the action now breaches the strict requirements of the court order, they can be held to be in contempt of court and this is punishable by an unlimited fine or imprisonment.
Mr Robb continued:
“We will be closely monitoring their activities in the future to ensure that the Order is observed and whilst welcoming the hotel management’s recent commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure that in future they comply with their legal obligations, will not hesitate to take further appropriate action should the situation continue”.
- The Highland Council Trading Standards obtained an Enforcement Order on 23 March 2011 under the provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 against the following defenders, in relation to the trading activities of the Polmaily House Hotel, by Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire: Family Hotels Ltd, Highland Bed and Breakfasts Limited and several directors and officers of these companies.
- The Enterprise Act provides an alternative to prosecution for Trading Standards authorities. It seeks to deal with bad practices in a constructive way by imposing legally-binding requirements on businesses and individuals in relation to their future trading activities.
- Investigations under the Enterprise Act can lead to a range of outcomes, depending on the seriousness of the breaches and the attitude and co-operation of the individuals involved. Informal assurances from businesses are often appropriate “disposals” for less serious cases, with the next “level” being a formal undertaking as to future conduct, a legally-binding document signed by the representatives of the business. The final option is to apply to the court for an Enforcement Order. Breach of an Enforcement Order may be contempt of court which is punishable by an unlimited fine or imprisonment.
- The Enterprise Act provides the framework for taking legal action in terms of breaches of a wide range of consumer protection legislation. In this case, officers found evidence of breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in relation to false and misleading advertising and breaches of Scots common law of supply of services in relation to the provision of sub-standard hotel services and failures to compensate consumers.