Watersports businessman told to repay customer after losing county court claim

A watersports businessman has been ordered to pay more than £700 after failing to provide lessons to a former customer.

Antony Baker
Antony Baker

Antony Baker, who ran Baker Academy, on Worthing seafront, received £600 from Guy Smith in June, 2014, in exchange for 20 hours of tuition.

The lessons were delayed when Mr Smith sustained an unrelated injury – but he was unable to rearrange the sessions upon his recovery, Worthing County Court heard today (Thursday, February 9).

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Mr Smith said he asked for his money back after unsuccessful attempts to reschedule his tuition.

Mr Baker told the court a voucher purchased by Mr Smith clearly stated the lessons were limited to 12 months from purchase.

But after the businessman was unable to provide evidence to support his claim, the court ruled against him.

District judge Helen Clarke said: “I am not satisfied that the defendant has established that it was a term of this agreement that the 20 hours had to be taken within 12 months.

“I do not find that it was a time-limited voucher. It was an open-ended arrangement, on the evidence, and the claimant has received nothing for his money.”

Mr Smith provided details of text and email conversations between the pair following his purchase.

He said he had kept in contact with Mr Baker, who told him he was ‘still cool’ for the lessons in November 2015.

He spoke of numerous times he had contacted the businessman and visited Baker Academy to no avail.

He told the court Mr Baker only mentioned the existence of a voucher on August 15, 2016 – more than two years after the purchase.

Mr Baker argued terms and conditions were clearly stated on the Baker Academy website and that he explained this during his first meeting with Mr Smith.

He said he extended the year-long period as a gesture of goodwill but when Mr Smith asked for his money back, he could not afford to refund him.

“This isn’t a squash court,” he told the court.

“We are based on weather and conditions. I would still be happy to provide him with the sessions. This fell apart because of the one time he came to the beach and it wasn’t suitable to take him out.”

Mr Smith said he had taken time to research the deal and had not seen any time-limit stated on the firm’s website.

District judge Clarke noted how Mr Baker had failed to provide witness statements or evidence to back-up his claim.

She noted the requirements were clearly detailed in correspondence to both sides ahead of the hearing.

“Unfortunately the defendant has very little to back up what he tells me,” she said.

The judge awarded Mr Smith the full £600 claim, plus £140 costs.

Mr Baker offered to repay £100 per month.

Mr Baker was elected to Salvington ward in the Worthing Borough Council elections in May, 2016.

He was suspended by the Conservative Party days later, shortly after the Herald asked him a series of questions about official documents, which appeared to show a number of county court judgments (CCJs) against him and Baker Academy.

West Worthing Conservative Association chairman Tom Wye confirmed in November that the suspension had been continued until the beginning of 2017, when he could reapply.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Baker, currently sitting as an Independent, said he still planned to reapply to join the party.

Baker Academy is now closed.