Don’t deal with doorstep traders
Some doorstep sellers are honest, but unfortunately there are some rogue traders who target their victims by making uninvited ‘cold calls’ and offering to provide goods or services.
The rogues target those less able to check the quality of the work or who may be easily intimidated into parting with large sums of money.
These goods or services are poor quality, but when consumers try to complain they find it difficult or impossible to contact the trader who often refuses to return or has disappeared.
The most common ‘scams’ to be wary of include:
Someone knocks on your door claiming to be working in the area and that they have some tarmac with which to surface your drive at a cut price rate. They often state that they have been doing work for the council and have the tarmac left over.
Work done is usually of very poor quality and the final bills are often far higher than what was originally quoted. Although they can be quite charming in their attempts to get you to agree to the work, they often turn threatening when it comes to the time to pay. Many go as far as to drive older people to the bank in order that they may withdraw more money. A few months later, when there are weeds coming through the tarmac, the traders have vanished with little hope of finding them.
Roofing, home repairs & garden maintenance
Sometimes workmen cold call and offer to do home repairs like roofing, guttering, fascia work or garden maintenance. Often the work they do is unnecessary and in some cases did not need doing at all. Even if the work was required, it may be done to a very poor standard and the final bill will be far higher than their initial verbal quote.
These workmen may become threatening when they demand payment and will leave an invoice with very little contact information. If there are problems with the work, it will then be very difficult to contact them to get them to come back and resolve any problems.
Take control of the situation
It is difficult to spot a rogue so Trading Standards advise
- DON’T buy from doorstep traders.
- Fix a security chain to your door and use it.
- Display a sticker on your door saying No Doorstep Traders. Free stickers may be available from Trading Standards or Neighbourhood Watch.
- Only open the door if you have the chain on.
- Check identification of callers and ask to see their
ID card and check it by independently verifying the number in the phonebook and then phoning the company.
- If you have any doubts about the person on your doorstep say ‘No thank you’ and close the door. If they refuse to go away tell them that you will call the police and dial 999.
- If you are alone ask the caller to come back and arrange for someone else to be present.
If you have any evidence that workmen are using ‘scams’ in your area, we would like to hear from you.
Don’t confront them. Just get as much information as you can and contact either your local Trading Standards Service or the Police straight away.
- Don’t make a ‘snap’ decision. Never be persuaded by the argument that this is ‘the only opportunity because this offer ends tomorrow’ or ‘we are only in the area this week’.
- Don’t sign a contract until you are completely happy with it.
- Don’t pay a deposit unless you have to and only pay a very small amount.
- Don’t pay for the work or materials in advance. Most reputable builders have trade accounts and do not need payment in advance.
- Don’t pay cash. Pay with a cheque (which can be traced if necessary) or if the service or goods cost more than £100 then use a credit card as this offers extra protection.
- Don’t pay the final bill unless you are fully satisfied. If necessary sign the invoice “not examined” if you have not been able to examine the work.
- Don’t let the trader escort you to the bank to take out money to pay them. If they are threatening or insistent then call the police on 999.
What you should do to take control of the situation
- Find out the name and address of the business owners - a mobile or 0800 number is not acceptable, nor is a PO Box or Suite number.
- Ask for a detailed written quotation – not an estimate. A quotation is legally binding, but an estimate simply gives a rough idea of how much something will cost.
- It’s OK to say “I’m going to shop around” or “I need time to think” or “I need to consult someone else” before you make a decision.
- Get a second opinion and at least 2 other written quotations as a price comparison.
- Check any claims made by the seller or trader and read any small print on any paperwork. Always check these details before agreeing anything or paying any money.
- If they claim membership of a trader association then call and verify their membership. If they are VAT registered you may also want to call HM Revenue & Customs and verify that the number they are using is correct.
- Check to see that the trader has insurance.
- Get an invoice or receipt for any work done or goods provided and make sure it has the company name, address and a telephone number (not a mobile or 0800 number). Make sure the trader writes the invoice, not you. If the trader is a Partnership or Sole Trader not trading in their own name, then the name of the proprietor(s) should also be on the paperwork.
- Remember that any reputable business will always be happy to allow you to carry out these checks.
Your rights when buying at home:
The law gives you extra rights when you decide in your home to buy goods or services. You have these rights both when you have been cold called and when you have made an appointment for the trader to call. These rights apply when the goods or services cost more than £42.
- The trader must give you a notice explaining your cancellation rights
- You have 14 days from when you receive the notice to change your mind and cancel the contract. The cancellation must be in writing.
- The trader cannot begin a service (such as a repair to your roof ) before the end of the cancellation period unless you have given your written permission. If the work is started within the cancellation period with your permission, you can still cancel the contract, but you must pay for any work done.
These are useful legal rights. However, unfortunately there are people who ignore their legal responsibilities. Please do not think that because you have cancellation rights you don’t need to think carefully before agreeing to something – particularly when the trader is someone who has knocked unexpectedly at your door.
Never forget - it is your doorstep. It is your doorstep and you always have the right to say ‘I do not buy from doorstep traders’.
It is sometimes difficult to say ‘No’. Doorstep traders are often trained in high pressure sales techniques and can be very persuasive.
Some final words of advice
Do not assume that all advertisements in Yellow Pages, other business directories or local papers are from bona fide traders. It is rare for publishers to check the credentials of people who advertise with them. Similarly an address and freephone (0800) number do not necessarily signify a reputable business.
Make sure you use recommended businesses and traders. The best ways to find them are to
- Ask friends and relatives to recommend people
- Telephone relevant trade associations and ask them for members in your area
- Check if there is an approved trader scheme with Consumer Direct.
The following no cold calling zones have been set up jointly with the local Police and usually Neighbourhood Watch. The purpose of ‘No Cold Calling’ zones is to discourage cold callers from specific residential areas - usually a street or small cluster of houses.
LOCATION OF NO COLD CALLING ZONES
Chandler Close, Weston, Bath
Swainswick Gardens, Larkhall, Bath
The Green, Odd Down, Bath
Trinity Road, Combe Down, Bath
St Nicholas Court, Bathampton, Bath
Mountain Wood, Bathford, Bath
Blagdon Park, Southdown, Bath
Quebec, Hanna Close, Twerton, Bath
Hinton Close/Iford Close, Saltford
Sherwood Close/Carpenters Lane, Keynsham
Hantone Hill, Bath
Old Vicarage Green, Keynsham
Wedmore Park, Southdown, Bath
Stirling Way, Keynsham
If you are not within a no cold calling zone but wish to obtain a sticker discouraging cold callers at your door please contact Trading Standards on 01225 396753 for a door sticker.