BBC consumer affairs show Watchdog has accused an Ilkeston company of making false claims, targeting vulnerable people for sales and racial discrimination.
Home improvement firm Energysave, which is based on South Street, was the subject of a Rogue Traders report broadcast on Wednesday, June 28.
The investigation followed the story of former Energysave customer Audrey Wilson, 84, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the report, when a salesman came to Audrey’s front door, he was told she was in no position to make such decisions - but her family say someone later returned and convinced her to make a £1,100 deposit for unnecessary work.
The family eventually forced Energysave into refunding the deposit, but they were then caught phoning Audrey’s home to make another sale.
In a statement to the Advertiser, Energysave chief executive Jason Rowan said: “The programme sensationalised many aspects of what happened in the case of Mrs Wilson, although we acknowledge that some mistakes were made.
“Mrs Wilson was originally contacted by a telephone canvasser, not by a door to door salesman. This means that we had no way of knowing about her condition.”
He added: “When were notified of the sale to Mrs Wilson we refunded her deposit in accordance with our terms and conditions, many months prior to the programme becoming involved.”
But on the back of that case, the Watchdog team sent an undercover reporter to work at Energysave, and his secret film recordings appeared to reveal more shocking practices.
One employee was filmed rubbing his hands and smiling as he said: “Mwwhahaha! I’m going to get your money. Watch out old lady. I’m so innocent, I’m a nice salesman.”
He also described how the company wanted to avoid dealing with customers from certain ethnic backgrounds - which would be illegal under anti-discrimination laws.
The same man was then filmed saying: “A vampire has to be invited over the threshold to come in the house. It’s a similar thing. If the vampire’s invited he can cause havoc.”
In response, Jason said: “I am extremely concerned to hear about the BBC’s allegations and we are thus conducting thorough investigations into the issues that have been raised in last night programme.
“Disciplinary action will be taken against any individual that has engaged in behaviour deemed to be unacceptable.”
The programme then detailed how the company targeted sales at people over the age of 55, and avoided mentioning the legal ‘cooling off’ period for customers to change their mind after a sale.
Json said: “We market our products to the over 55’s because this is the demographic whom spend the most time enjoying their homes and who are more likely to invest in home improvements.”
When the undercover reporter used a Ferrari-branded mug in the company kitchen, Jason was heard to say: “My mug, that goes with my car. Crack my mug and I’ll crack your head.”
Watchdog presenter Matt Allwright also looked into the claims made by Energysave about its SecoTHERM Energy Saving Wall Coating.
It supposedly improves the thermal efficiency of masonry by keeping it dry, and Energysave make various claims that it could save homeowners up to a third on heating bills.
In a secretly filmed sales training session, a company representative acknowledged: “That’s a false claim.”
A salesman was later seen repeating the assetion to an elderly woman posing as a customer, which Watchdog’s building expert Barry Cross described as “utter nonsense”.
The seller maintained his sales pitch in the woman’s home for over an hour, using what Watchdog said was a “pressure sales manner.”
When confronted by Allwright, Jason initially tried to obstruct cameras from entering the office.
Following the broadcast, he said: “We are introducing a brand new training scheme, company policies and procedures to assure the public we are doing everything within our power to address the allegations and any failings found will be addressed and corrected immediately.
“We currently have a one per cent complaints rate, which is phenomenal for any business, Last night’s programme highlighted one single case out of thousands of happy customers currently on our system.”
He added: “The allegations are deeply upsetting and are not representative of the conscientious way that the company is run.”
The Watchdog report is now available on BBC iPlayer at http://bbc.in/2u2t3qX.