Highland householders warned to be on guard against doorstep rogue itinerant traders.

Trading Standard officers from The Highland Council are calling on residents to be on their guard against rogue itinerant traders calling door at their door.

Many residents are approached at this time of year by doorstep callers offering to carry out work on home repairs and maintenance.  Residents may feel that they are getting a bargain but reports already suggest that some of the work carried out this year has been shoddy and overpriced.  Some doorstep callers also use bogus names and addresses and claim to be based in the Highland area, when in fact they are not.

Residents have a statutory seven day cooling off period during which the resident can reconsider and cancel the contract, with no penalty.  This takes the form of a cancellation notice which must inform the resident of the full name and address of the business of the doorstep caller.  The cooling off period can only be waved when the doorstep caller receives a written statement from the resident that allows the work to commence within the seven days.

If the resident does not receive a cancellation notice, or does not wave the cooling off period in writing, then the deal is not enforceable and the doorstep caller cannot insist on payment, even through the Courts.

Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager, 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 or give written authorisation for the work to commence within the seven day cooling off period.”

Mr Robb added: “We urge Highland residents not to be conned by rogue tradesmen and to take time before agreeing for work to be done on their home.   The message is for residents to do their research first and find out if there are any reliable local contractors who can do the necessary work for them.  Once a doorstep caller is gone they are usually gone for good, along with your money.  It is vital to remain vigilant and to be wary of callers at your home and to seek advice if in doubt.” 

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.  Highland Council Trading Standards liaise with Northern Constabulary in a combined effort to combat this crime.

Northern Constabulary would encourage anyone who has been a victim of such a crime to contact their nearest Police Station on 0845 600 5703 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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 at: www.direct.gov.uk.

5 May 2011