Date Published: Wed, 24/04/2013

Residents are being warned by Bath & North East Somerset Council to beware of doorstep sellers after an elderly lady became the victim of a suspected rogue trader.

Two men arrived unannounced on the lady’s doorstep in Southdown, Bath, earlier this month, where they offered to clean her block paving drive. The men were very aggressive and pressurised the lady into paying £265.

Robin Wood, Senior Trading Standards Officer for Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “They asked the lady if they could borrow all the equipment needed to clean the drive, including a brush and water. They then proceeded to clean the drive with what smelled like bleach. Moss started to re-appear through the block paving slabs just days after the cleaning work was carried out.

“The two men have since revisited the lady’s home on several occasions but she has refused to answer the door to them. The incident has affected her confidence so badly that she is now too frightened to leave the house to visit the shops.”

'Cold calling', as it is known, is used by both rogue traders and legitimate companies therefore it can be initially difficult for a consumer to distinguish between the two.

Councillor David Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The most frequently complained about incident typically arises from a householder receiving an unsolicited visit from a workman offering to carry out repair or maintenance work. The caller may tell the householder that repairs are needed urgently and that structural damage may result if work is not done there and then.

“Householders can feel pressured into agreeing to have work done. The cost of the work frequently increases considerably from the original estimate and the work is often poorly done or incomplete. It can cost householders thousands of pounds to have the damage put right.

“Bath & North East Somerset Council’s advice is never to agree to work on the doorstep. If you think that work is needed to your property get quotes from two or three traders and compare them. Ask for references and check the trader out by speaking to their previous customers.”

If you do agree to work on the doorstep costing more than £35, you have the right to cancel the contract at any time within 7 days. The trader must by law give you a written notice of your right to cancel the contract.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards team has produced door stickers for residents to display stating that they do not buy from doorstep callers. Residents can obtain a sticker by phoning 01225 396753.

If you or a neighbour or relative is approached by a cold caller and you are concerned please call the national Trading Standards hotline for advice on 08454 040506. You can also report any suspicious vehicles you have spotted in your area if you think they are being used by workmen targeting houses or bungalows in areas predominately inhabited by older or vulnerable residents.

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