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Jail time for truck shop owner

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/03/2017

Vikram Mehta, the owner of truck shop business Flexi Buy, has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment after taking money from customers without intending to supply goods as promised.

It is the first jail sentence handed down in a prosecution initiated by the Commerce Commission, which regulates fair trading and other laws.

Mehta intends to appeal, the commission says.

Flexi Buy told customers they would get their goods once they had made a set number of payments, when it knew they would not.

Between late 2012 and early 2014 Flexi Buy entered into more than 300 consumer credit contracts, but only nine customers received their goods.

The sentence was handed down in the Auckland District Court on Friday by Judge Philippa Cunningham who said "because of the seriousness of what occurred here, I am not minded to impose home detention".

"In my view it needs to be a sentence at the top of the hierarchy of sentences to send a message to Mr Mehta and any other persons who seek to, in my words, rip off vulnerable people, that such behaviour that breaches the criminal law will be met with the full force of the criminal law."

Mehta was convicted under the Crimes Act as a party to Flexi Buy's conduct. He was the sole shareholder and director of the company during the period of its offending.

"The commission has successfully pursued a number of cases against mobile traders, but this was a particularly serious one, and that's why we took Crimes Act action against Mr Mehta personally," says Commissioner Anna Rawlings.

Mehta used Flexi Buy income for his personal use, rent on his Auckland apartment, and living expenses, including at least $22,000 spent during a 2013 trip to India.

Ms Rawlings said a number of recent cases had been taken against other mobile traders when they failed to meet their disclosure obligations.

Consumers need to be aware of their rights when thinking about signing a consumer credit contract.

Flexi Buy sold household and electronic goods door-to-door around the North Island between late 2012 and early 2014. It stopped trading after the commission commenced its investigation.

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