OFT Warns Against Increase In Rogue Traders

Especially those offering home maintenance work during summer months


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While British weather cannot guarantee sunshine, the longer days of light and hopefully dry spells provide the best time to undertake outside building and home improvement work.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning people that the summer is also an opportune time for rogue traders. Last year, advice service Consumer Direct received more than 5,300 complaints about traders offering home maintenance work on the doorstep, a 16 per cent rise from the previous year, with complaints peaking in the summer months from July through to the autumn.

Supported by several high profile stars, including Esther Rantzen, the OFT is driving an awareness campaign urging householders to be cautious and take time to think about people who call at the door. Rogue doorstep traders will often offer services at attractive rates and use persuasive sales techniques to encourage people into making hasty decisions.
Consumer Direct figures show roofing jobs received the most complaints (28 per cent) during 2009, with tarmacing and paving close behind with 23 per cent.

The top five uninvited doorstep trader complaints to Consumer Direct in 2009 were:
• Roofing* – 28%
• Tarmacing and paving** – 23%
• Insulation – 9%
• General building work – 8%
• Guttering – 6%

Michele Shambrook from the OFT commented: ‘It is not illegal for handymen to canvas for work in this way, but it is important that people are cautious and don’t make hasty decisions about agreeing to have work done by traders who come directly to their doorstep. Rogue doorstep trading is an ongoing problem in the UK and work or service carried out can sometimes be unnecessary, of a poor standard, much more expensive than originally quoted or not done at all.
‘This campaign is helping people to recognise the warning signs, so that they have the confidence to say no if they’re unsure about what is being offered.’

Esther Rantzen, who is supporting the campaign, commented: ‘I know someone who lost a huge sum of money because they fell victim to a rogue doorstep trader. It’s sickening that there are individuals out there who want to con innocent, hard-working people out of their money but unfortunately, it does happen, so people need to be aware of the different scams and recognise the warning signs. No-one should feel pressured into making a decision and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’

The OFT offers the following advice on how people can avoid being scammed by rogue doorstep traders:
• If a trader knocks at your door do not agree to on the spot house repairs, or sign anything on the spot.
• Be wary of special offers or warnings that your house is unsafe.
• Do not make snap decisions. Take time to talk to someone you trust before you make a decision.
• If in doubt, call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/doorstepselling

July 21, 2010