A DAWLISH taxi driver, who stood up for an elderly couple being preyed on by gang of rogue traders, has been honoured with a Hero Award.
Chris Smith, 37, pictured right, owner of Black Swan Taxis in Dawlish, was awarded the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Hero Award last week.
He was nominated by the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service for his ‘outstanding contribution to consumer protection’ when he stepped in to prevent doorstep traders from ripping off an elderly couple in March.
The gang had quoted the couple £170 for cutting down and removing a tree – but after completing the work they demanded £700 which the couple didn’t have at home, so the lady called Black Swan Taxis to take her to the bank.
‘The second I got there something didn’t ring true, and I could tell that my customers where distressed,’ said Chris.
‘The guys doing the work didn’t seem very professional and I’ve known these customers for a few years. They don’t have many visitors.’
Once in the taxi she told Chris she had to withdraw more money out of the bank because the rogue traders had upped the price by more than 300 per cent.
Chris said: ‘I was really angry that an elderly couple who have worked hard all their lives to save some money for their retirement were being were being taken advantage of and felt threatened on their own property. I decided not to go to the bank and persuaded her to call the police.
“And because I was worried about her husband, who had stayed behind with the workmen, I offered to come back to their home and wait with them until the police arrived.”
He said the traders ‘were very keen’ on him leaving, hurled abuse, and tried to coax the couple to go into the house to hand over money and valuables.
Quick-thinking Chris pretended he needed to stay and settle the couple’s taxi account, and bought enough time to enable police and trading standards officers to arrive.
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service officers told the doorstep traders a verbal contract was unenforceable and they were told to leave.
Chris added: “Quite a few of our clients are elderly and vulnerable and if we don’t see some of our regulars for a while, we check on them from time to time, to see if everything is okay.
“I am very proud to have been nominated and to receive this award, but it was always about stopping a vulnerable couple who felt threatened from losing a considerable amount of savings.”
Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, said: “This award is thoroughly deserved. Without sparing a thought for his own safety, Chris recognised that an elderly couple were distressed, needed help and he acted.
“His example is an important reminder that we all have a collective responsibility to look out the most vulnerable in our society.”