Muhammad Muneeb Amjad, 33, of Pycroft Way, London, was the director of Park Direct Gatwick Ltd which misled customers who believed their cars were parked securely while they holidayed.
In fact, their cars were left in an open field where officers found many were unlocked. At least one of the vehicles was damaged and dash cam footage proved it had been driven around.
On Friday, May 6 2022, Amjad appeared at Lewes Crown Court where he was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and told to complete a ten-day rehabilitation course and undertake 60 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay compensation to seven victims totalling £1,141 and costs of £1,200. Amjad had pleaded guilty to engaging in misleading commercial practices at an earlier court hearing.
In July 2019, West Sussex Trading Standards received a tip off that the company was using a field in Ifield to park the vehicles of customers who were flying from nearby Gatwick Airport.
The company and director were already known to the service having previously been warned about the same conduct.
Officers carried out an unannounced inspection on July 30, 2019 and found the gate to the site open and around 200 to 300 vehicles parked closely together, some almost touching, with many vehicles left unlocked.
Details of the vehicles were recorded and letters were sent to the registered keepers, who confirmed they had used Park Direct Gatwick Ltd and believed their cars were parked securely in a locked car park with CCTV.
Trading Standards also received a separate complaint from a customer whose car had been returned with damage which the company had refused to repair or pay for. She provided dash cam footage to the investigation which showed her car being driven around eight days before she was due to pick it up.
The judge told Amjad to pay this victim £566 in compensation as part of his sentence.
The company went into liquidation, however Amjad, the director, was prosecuted under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for engaging in misleading commercial practices.
Richard Sargeant, West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager, said: "Despite being previously warned about this activity, Mr Amjad’s company continued to mislead passengers into believing their vehicles were secure, when in fact they were left unlocked in a field that anyone could access.
"I would like to thank the customers for coming forward and helping to 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 are up to and we will take action against you."
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice, should contact West Sussex Trading Standards or Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133.