Doorstep campaign supported by Council (20/07/11)

The Highland Council is working with the Office of Fair Trading to warn the public of doorstep visits from rogue traders offering to carry out  home repairs and gardening work. They are urging householders to be extra careful when accepting building and maintenance repair offers from cold callers.

They have found that bogus doorstep traders often use a range of persuasive and emotional tactics to secure a fast sale and con people out of their money, including making the householder feel that there is a great urgency in the offer and that if they you don’t sign up now, they will miss out.

Since the 1st April 2011, Trading Standards Officers have received more than 100 complaints regarding home improvements in the local area. More than  half of these complaints are in relation to guttering, roofing, fascias and tarring offered to homeowners by doorstep tradesmen and they believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.

According to advice service Consumer Direct, more than  5,000 complaints were received last year in Britain about uninvited home maintenance traders, with the most common complaints mirroring those experienced in Highland. The OFT’s doorstep selling campaign aims to remind people to be cautious of doorstep sellers’ pitches and avoid making snap decisions. If you are unsure about a doorstep offer, take time to discuss it with someone you trust.

Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager, The Highland Council said: “Every year we receive complaints about traders who temporarily move into the area and attempt to sell their services or goods door to door. The nature of the complaints we receive is mainly about shoddy workmanship and overcharging, but sometimes also about some quite aggressive practices that can leave the most vulnerable people in our communities quite upset and suffering considerable financial loss.

The seriousness of this activity has led to us to make a clear statement to all residents not to allow anyone to carry out repairs or maintenance unless they can provide satisfactory identification, a clear written quotation of the work to be carried out, the total cost of the work, and give legal notice to the resident that they can cancel and the need for you to give specific written authorisation for the work to commence within the seven day cooling off period.”

 “Decisions made on the doorstep may result in you agreeing to work that is not necessary, of poor quality or more costly than quoted or the work is worth– leaving you out of pocket and often in need of more expense to resolve the problem.  This campaign wants to highlight these issues and ensure that homeowners take the time to consider their decisions carefully, with the support of family and friends.”

He said more and more members of the public are speaking out.  An elderly woman was w approached by rogue traders when she was weeding her garden. She was persuaded to have work carried out on her property. Once the trader started, he told her there was more work that he said needed to be done. She ended up paying out more than £3,000.

He added: “We now want to warn others and tell them not to agree to on-the- spot house repairs. Remember that if you do, you have to be given cancellation rights and, if you are at all unsure to seek advice before doing anything.”

Fiona Munro, Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator for the Aird Avenue and Glenshiel Place area of Inverness added: “If a trader knocks at your door do not agree to on the spot house repairs and do not sign anything, even better, if you don’t know who they are don’t open the door. Take the time to talk to someone you trust before you make a decision.  Neighbourhood Watch is keen to play its part in tacking this problem and publishes good advice on how best to deal with uninvited doorstep callers, this can be viewed at www.neighbourhoodwatch.net.”

Doorstep callers commit criminal offences when they mislead, hide their identity or do not give written notice of cancellation.  Highland Council Trading Standards will investigate complaints made and urge residents to get in contact if they are at all suspicious.   They liaise with Northern Constabulary in a combined effort to combat this crime.

Concerned residents can contact The Highland Council’s  Trading Standards Section at 38 Harbour Road, Inverness or telephone Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 for free and confidential advice regarding doorstep sellers.  Residents can also pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or visit the Crimestoppers website at: www.crimestoppersscotland-uk.org to make a secure complaint online and find out more information on home security.  More information about your consumer rights can be found by going to the Consumer Direct website.

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Notes to Editors

1. The Office of Fair Trading’s campaign about rogue doorstep traders is a Government initiative to encourage its target audience of consumers over 70, especially women, to be aware of the risks of rogue doorstep traders and have the confidence to refuse on the spot house repairs and not to hand over money.

2. Consumer Direct is the government-funded telephone and online service offering information and advice on consumer issues. Consumer Direct is funded by the OFT and delivered in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services. For information or advice contact 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.direct.gov.uk

3. Highland Council Trading Standards Section is part of Transport, Environment and Community Service, Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.

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