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Consumers Warned to be on their Guard from Rogue Doorstep Traders

25th April 2008

Trading Standards officers of The Highland Council are advising the public to show the door to itinerant traders, who offer to carry out a range of work on the home. And residents should not hesitate to report to the police any trader who is menacing and threatening in trying to secure a contract and cash payment.

The guidance is being issued in response to complaints from the public, especially the vulnerable and elderly, who are being targeted by gangs of workmen travelling throughout the Highlands, offering to carry out work on roofs, building repairs, tarmac driveways and garden maintenance.

Easter Ross has been targeted in recent times.

Alistair Thomson, the Council's Head of Environmental Health and Trading Standards, is extremely concerned about the trading practices and behaviour of these traders. He said: "Reports received by our officers suggest that consumers are being harassed into agreeing that work should be carried out on their homes. Once the work is completed, householders are then intimidated into handing over cash as payment.

"Our advice to consumers is that if someone knocks on their door offering to carry out work on their home, they should be very careful before allowing them over the threshold and think before agreeing to have any work carried out."

To help deal with doorstep callers Trading Standards officers advise consumers to:

Fix a security chain to the front your door, and make sure they use it every time someone calls;
If in doubt about the identity of the caller, close the door;
Think before agreeing to work being carried out. Is there someone locally who might be able to carry out the work?
If intimidated by a doorstep caller, the public should contact the police as soon as possible.

If anyone has been a victim of a crime relating to uninvited guests to their home selling goods or offering to carry out work they should contact Highland Trading Standards Unit. 38 Harbour Road, Inverness or telephone on: 01463/228700 for free and confidential advice.

If anyone has felt threatened or intimidated by a doorstep caller, they should contact Northern Constabulary on 08456 033388 or their local police station.

Cases in the past have highlighted where consumers have fallen victim to home improvement firms, travelling throughout the UK. A few examples are as follows:

Case One:

Cowboy builders persuaded a pensioner to part with 300 for home repairs, 100 more than the price he thought he had verbally agreed with them.

"I felt intimidated into giving them the money. I wrote asking for a refund but the letter was returned, "address unknown", stamped on it. I cannot get my money back and the work carried out will now have to be redone."

Case Two:

A 79 year old man handed over 665 after a doorstep caller persuaded him to have a small patio built, costing 1300 in total. The gang of three men, demanded half the money up front, to pay for materials, and drove the consumer to the bank so he could withdraw the money for them. His son successfully cancelled the contract but was unable to get his fathers money back that he had paid over. His father had no receipt and no means of contacting the firm once they had left the area.

"My father gets confused sometimes and did not realise he was being massively overcharged for a job that I could have done for him. He is very independent and thought that he was saving me time by getting someone else to do the work instead."

Case Three:

An elderly woman was told by doorstep callers that her chimney looked dangerous and was in need of repair. The man who called at her door, also offered to clean and check her guttering for her at the same time as well as look over her roof for storm damage. Luckily she was not taken in and closed the door on them but later she realised that some neighbours had agreed to get some work carried out, which turned out to be faulty.

"My late husband used to work in the building trade and I still have some contacts in the trade who check over things for me, so I knew that this chap who came to the door was talking a load of rubbish. When I told this chap that I was not interested he became very abusive and I did feel threatened but just closed the door on him. Unfortunately some of my neighbours, agreed to work being carried out and they have paid well over the odds for the bad workmanship which has been done."


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