Muhammad Muneeb Amjad, 33, of Pycroft Way, London, was the director of Park Direct Gatwick Ltd, which tricked customers into thinking their cars were safely parked while on holiday.
In fact, their cars were left in an open field where officers discovered many were unlocked. At least one of the vehicles was damaged and dashcam footage showed it had been driven.
On Friday May 6, 2022, Amjad appeared at Lewes Crown Court where he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and ordered to undergo a ten-day rehabilitation course and undertake 60 hours unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay compensation to seven victims for a total of £1,141 and costs of £1,200. Amjad had pleaded guilty to participating in deceptive marketing practices at an earlier hearing.
In July 2019, West Sussex Trading Standards became aware that the company was using land in Ifield to park vehicles for customers flying in from nearby Gatwick Airport.
The company and the manager were already known to the service after being warned of the same behavior.
Officers conducted an unannounced inspection on July 30, 2019 and found the gate to the site open and approximately 200-300 vehicles parked close together, some almost touching, with many vehicles remaining unlocked.
Vehicle details were recorded and letters were sent to registered holders, who confirmed they had used Park Direct Gatwick Ltd and believed their cars were parked safely in a locked car park with CCTV.
Trading Standards also received a separate complaint from a customer whose car was returned with damage that the company refused to repair or pay for. She provided dash cam footage to the inquest which showed her car being driven about eight days before she was due to collect it.
The judge told Amjad to pay this victim £566 in compensation as part of his sentence.
The company went into liquidation, but Amjad, the director, was prosecuted under the Protection of Consumers from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for engaging in misleading trading practices.
Richard Sargeant, West Sussex Trading Standards Team Leader, said: ‘Despite being previously warned of this activity, Mr Amjad’s company continued to mislead passengers into believing that their vehicles were secured, when in fact they were left unlocked in a field that anyone could access.
“I want to thank the customers for coming forward and helping bring him to justice.”
Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, said: ‘The outcome of this investigation should serve as a stark warning to all dishonest traders: we will find out what you do and we will take action against you.”