Rogue doorstep traders

Rogue_doorstep_traders_warning

OFT and Age UK warn older people of rogue doorstep traders, as preparations for winter weather begin

Office of Fair Trading press release 11 October 2010 

The Office of Fair Trading and Age UK have joined forces to warn people, particularly those in later life, the vulnerable and their friends and family, to be wary of rogue doorstep traders offering winter home improvement services.

The awareness drive highlights the financial risks of being scammed and the emotional toll it can take. It is being supported by resident agony aunt at ITV’s ‘This Morning’, Denise Robertson, who commented:

‘I receive many letters from people who have been swindled by illegitimate doorstep handymen They often feel too embarrassed to talk about it, even with their closest family and friends. I hope that by bringing this issue into the open, people will feel more comfortable to talk about it and also more confident, if they are approached, to say no or ask for time to consider, rather than agree to work on the spot.’

While canvassing on the doorstep is not illegal and there are many legitimate businesses selling to people in the home, rogue doorstep trading is an ongoing problem in the UK.

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.

Helena Herklots, Services Director at Age UK, the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, said:

‘With last year’s freezing temperatures still fresh in people’s minds, we want to raise awareness of rogue doorstep traders offering services to prepare homes before bad weather sets in. Although crime against older people is less likely than other age groups, rogue doorstep traders often target those who are older or more vulnerable, so it’s important to be aware of the risks.’

Michele Shambrook from the OFT commented:

‘If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Work or service carried out by these traders is sometimes unnecessary, of a poor standard, much more expensive than originally quoted or not done at all.’

The OFT offers the following advice for people:

  • 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.