Consumers warned to be on their guard for doorstep callers in the Highlands.

Highland Council Trading Standard Service is calling on consumers, to be on their guard against rogue itinerant traders calling door to door.

Vulnerable consumers such as the elderly appear to be targeted by gangs offering to carry out work on home repairs and maintenance. 

Householders may feel that they are getting a bargain but reports suggest that some of the work carried out has been shoddy and overpriced.  

Some doorstep callers are also using bogus names and addresses and in some cases claiming to be based in the Highland area, when they are not. 

Alistair Thomson, Head of Environmental Health and Trading Standards says: “Every year we receive complaints about shoddy workmanship and overcharging concerning itinerant traders who come into the Highland area.  Our concern is that these particular rogue traders are targeting vulnerable residents.  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 the trader can provide satisfactory identification and clear written quotations of the work to be carried out and the total cost.”

Mr Thomson adds: “We urge Highland residents not to be conned by these rogue tradesmen and for consumers to take time before agreeing for work to be done on their home.   The message to consumers wishing to carry out home improvements is to do their homework and find out if there are any reliable local contractors who can do the necessary work on their home, for them.” 

A further important point for consumers to realise is they do have rights relating to unsolicited visits to their home. 

Consumers can change their minds if they receive an unsolicited visit from a trader.  The itinerant trader must give the householder a written notice of a cooling off period laid down by legislation.

This seven day cooling off period allows the householder to reconsider whether or not they want the work done and if not, to cancel the contract, with no penalty.   The cancellation notice, must inform the consumer of the full name and address of the trader so that the consumer can cancel within the time limit given.

If the customer does not receive a cancellation notice, then the deal is not enforceable and the tradesmen cannot insist on payment.  Additionally, they may have committed a criminal offence and Highland Trading Standards would be interested to hear of this.

Highland Trading Standards advise it is vital for consumers to remain vigilant and continue to be wary of callers at their home and to seek advice if in doubt.

Consumers can contact Highland Trading Standards Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness or telephone on: 01463/228700 for free and confidential advice regarding doorstep sellers.

10 May 2010