Online pet supplier fined after ripping off customers

Angry consumers have hit out against a Balgownie online pet supplier who took their cash but failed to hand over any goods.

Gregory Robert Stratton, former operator of Sharlee Stockfeeds and Pet Supplies, was fined $20,000 in Wollongong Local Court yesterday for ripping off four female customers last year.

Investigations into the 46-year-old's dodgy business are continuing after the Department of Fair Trading received another 50 complaints from unhappy customers, the court was told.

Sentencing Stratton yesterday, Magistrate Michael Stoddart slammed his conduct as "downright dishonest."

"People go online and give their details ... it may only be $40, which may not mean too much to you, but it's a faith system - you pay for goods and expect stuff back," he said.

"This may have been a lot of money for these victims and you've just brought added stress to them; they will probably have second thoughts about shopping online again."

Stratton had been operating the now defunct online business www.sharlee.com.au for 14 years, selling pet supplies including food, accessories and medication.

On January 24, a female customer ordered a $31.90 cat toy and was told the order would be sent in three days, the court heard.

When the toy didn't arrive, the woman made several attempts to contact Stratton but never received the goods - or a response.

A second woman ordered $39.50 worth of pet products on February 15, only for weeks to pass without the items arriving at her door.

Another customer handed over $117.95 for undelivered products.

She sent an email to Stratton, requesting an explanation, but never received a reply.

A fourth customer paid $181.65 for pet products that were never supplied, the court heard.

Stratton was interviewed by investigators last year and admitted to failing to fill the orders.

He pleaded guilty yesterday to four counts of failing to supply goods and services.

Solicitor Lisa Heffernan, acting for Stratton, told the court her client's business had run into financial difficulties last year including cash flow problems and issues with overseas supplies.

Ms Heffernan said the business was no longer operating and Stratton had since made efforts to refund all the customers.

The court heard Stratton had been "over-committed" in other areas of his life and had not been giving appropriate attention to the company.

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