UP to 2,500 people may have had unauthorised payments taken by a garden waste collection firm.

Greentopia, which operates from Portslade to Seaford, was sold to new owner Brendan Bezuidenhout in June and since then has repeatedly missed collections and taken numerous unauthorised payments by direct debit.

Many customers have contacted The Argus to warn others to check their bank statements after they noticed £70 charges which should be taken annually have been taken over and again in a matter of months.

In some cases, banks have received instructions from Greentopia to reinstate direct debits which customers cancelled.

Rufus Roskilly, one of the firm’s former owners, said his phone at Synergy Waste Management had been “ringing off the hook” with customers complaining but said there was nothing he could do.

He advised customers to contact the firm’s new owner or get in touch with Trading Standards.

He said access to the firm’s list of its 2,500 customers passed exclusively into Mr Bezuidenhout’s hands in June.

Mr Roskilly said: “It’s been horrific and perhaps 80 per cent of our customers were elderly people and I’m really concerned about them.”

Customer Ian Mitchell paid his annual subscription in May. In July a repeat payment was taken. He contacted the firm to ask for it be be corrected but he claims it was not. He cancelled the payment through his bank and received his money back.

Last month he received a notification from Lloyds to say a new direct debit had been registered by Greentopia, despite him having cancelled it. Lloyds gave him the opportunity to cancel the direct debit, which he did.

Mr Mitchell said: “I was terribly shocked. I didn’t even think that was possible after you’d cancelled a direct debit.

“My faith in direct debits has gone and I know I’m not the only person it’s happened to.”

A Trading Standards spokesman said: “We are aware of a number of people who have reported issues relating to the activities of a company called Greentopia Ltd.

“Unfortunately we are unable to comment any further at this stage but would ask anyone who has any problems to report the matter to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.”

Sussex Police said anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud should inform the police.

In September when we reported on Greentopia’s missed collections, new owner Brandon Bezuidenhout offered his deepest apologies and promised the firm would be better than ever.

He has since failed to respond to our requests for comment.

The company’s contact details are 0844 272 6054 or contact@greentopiasussex.com.

However that is a premium rate phone line about which many customers have complained. They say they are kept on hold for long periods, after which time the line goes dead.

Brandon Bezuidenhout’s mobile phone number is 07984 857064 and his email address ia brandon@wedrawfast.com