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Aug 01 2011

OFT warns against increase in rogue doorstep traders

Figures released today by the Office of Fair Trading show that home improvements continue to top the list of complaints about doorstep rogue traders. The OFT is today urging consumers, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to be on their guard against rogue traders knocking at their door.

Last year, Consumer Direct received more than 13,000 complaints about uninvited traders and almost half of these complaints (5,718) related to home maintenance work. The top five complaints about this group in 2010 were:

  • roofing – 1725 (30 per cent)
  • tarmacing and paving – 1088 (19 per cent)
  • insulation – 663 (12 per cent)
  • general building work – 573 (10 per cent)
  • burglar alarms – 348 (six per cent ).

With complaints about home maintenance peaking in the summer months from July through to the autumn, the OFT is launching 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.

Michele Shambrook Deputy Operations Manager at Consumer Direct said:
‘It is not illegal for handymen to canvas for work, but it is important that people are cautious and do not make hasty decisions. 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.’

Jim Maddan, Chair of Neighbourhood and Home Watch for England & Wales said:
‘We are supporting this campaign because it’s important that people feel safe in their homes and understand the tactics used by conmen. These types of rogue traders will try to find common ground with a homeowner and use deceptive and misleading claims. Some may falsely claim to be endorsed by a trade association or a local council. It is important that people have the confidence to say no to doorstep traders and take the time to think about the service being offered.’

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.direct.gov.uk/consumer

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