Don’t fall victim to rogue traders – how to Buy With Confidence
- Credit: Tim Pestridge Photography
How a scheme run by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards can direct you to reliable, honest tradespeople in your area
In February this year a rogue stove fitter from Crewkerne was sentenced for installing an appliance which emitted potentially lethal carbon monoxide whenever it was lit.
The court heard that, over a nine-month period, he had carried out substandard work throughout Somerset.
He turned out to be unqualified to do the job, and he had also failed to issue the legally-required certification demonstrating compliance with building regulations. This is an important check to ensure that the appliance has been installed safely and has not damaged the fabric of the existing building. If it is not done, the homeowner can be liable.
This dishonest trader had consistently misled customers about his qualifications and certification. He made false claims on his website and Facebook, and showed potential customers certificates he had not earned, and photos of installations he had not worked on.
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So, how can you avoid falling victim to a rogue trader?
The Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards team has identified several characteristics of how rogue traders operate, which can help you identify them. For example, cold calling.
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“Not every cold caller is a rogue trader, but it is highly likely. They will probably be selling services such as roofing work, driveway repairs and/or cleaning, or gardening and tree cutting.
“Sometimes they claim to be working for the council or some other official body, and even show bogus ID cards. Some try to convince householders that repair work is needed urgently, when in fact this is not the case. There have even been cases of traders causing damage themselves so that they can offer to repair it.
“Usually they will either do a shoddy job and overcharge for it, or they will disappear without finishing the job. In the latter case they have usually demanded payment in advance, and some even drive customers to their bank to withdraw the money. Naturally, they will ignore the 14-day cooling-off period they are legally required to offer, and won’t provide any paperwork.”
It is true that all lines of work attract some unreliable or fraudulent people, but they are particularly common in certain trades. These are nearly always those involving work people cannot carry out themselves and turn to an ‘expert’ – typically, builders, plumbers, electricians, roofers, car repairers and people who lay or clean driveways. How can you find a tradesperson who is approved by Trading Standards, and whose professional accreditation is genuine?
The answer is the not-for-profit Buy With Confidence scheme set up by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards several years ago. This is a register of reliable businesses, all of whose members must pass an audit tailored to their line of work.
Trading Standards will visit them and check their complaints history, along with any criminal records. The business will need to provide customer references, and officially agree to a code of conduct. The performance of all members will then be monitored through customer feedback and further regular audits.
Buy With Confidence will also help the customer if a problem does arise. The service offers impartial advice and, if communication between the customer and the business has broken down, mediation. The Buy With Confidence scheme means you always have back-up and support if something does go wrong.
In the North Somerset area, dozens of traders are Buy With Confidence members, meaning that everything you would want to know about them has already been checked and verified.
The advice from Trading Standards is to make use of this service before you need work done urgently. The people who fall victim to rogue traders are often those who have just had a household emergency – a leaking roof, a flood, a broken-down boiler or an electrical fault. When something like this happens, it is tempting to believe anyone who claims they have the skills and professional qualifications to fix the problem quickly.
By visiting Buy With Confidence now, you can draw up a list of members in your local area, and keep it for when you need it..
Here is a summary of the tips from Trading Standards:
- Get three quotes from reputable businesses you trust.
- Get recommendations from your friends or family.
- Visit Buy With Confidence to find a reliable trader, or call the service on 01392 383430.
- Take your time deciding who to use.
- Remember, any work in your home costing more than £42 entitles you to a 14-day cooling-off period, during which you can change your mind. If you do agree to the work starting within the cooling-off period, you will be liable for any cost incurred by the business up until you cancel.