The Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS) is warning consumers of the dangers of employing doorstep callers, as part of its ‘Say No to Doorstep Crime’ campaign.
Over the past year TSS has received over 200 complaints from consumers who have fallen victim to doorstep criminals. These traders purposely target older and vulnerable consumers who live alone by calling at their homes, often uninvited, and offering to carry out home improvement works or repairs to a property.
Complaints to TSS have included consumers who have lost large sums of money for work that has been proven to be of minimal value, often requiring the consumer to pay out substantial sums to legitimate traders to have the work rectified. In addition, consumers have also alleged they have felt intimidated and pressurised into agreeing to pay for additional work that they didn’t want or need.
Complaints have also been received from consumers who have used local neighbourhood websites where the public are invited to post the jobs they require, in the belief that they will avoid the sort of rogue traders who turn up on their doorstep. However, the doorstep criminals have adapted their methods and now have a presence on these websites and often respond to such requests. The traders often use fake profiles and vastly under-quote for jobs to get a response.
In reality, many of these traders are criminals who will charge vastly inflated prices for shoddy work or for work that is not required and in many cases, the trader will start work on the property immediately and then will leave it unfinished or in a very poor state of repair.
TSS are therefore advising consumers not to employ tradespeople who just turn up on the doorstep offering to do work in the home or garden. Kevin McNamara of the TSS said: “We are increasingly seeing the devastating effects of doorstep crime on its victims. As well as the huge financial losses, many also suffer emotional trauma, the onset of health problems and have a prolonged fear of crime.”
Mr McNamara went on to advise: “In order to deter approaches from rogue traders in the first place you can place a sign in your door or window informing any doorstep callers seeking business that they are not welcome. You can point the sign out to any unwelcome callers and inform them that if they persist in trying to sell their services they may be committing a criminal offence.”
No Cold Calling signs and more help and advice can be obtained from Consumerline by ringing 0300 123 6262 or at www.nidirect.gov.uk/consumerline.
The advice from TSS to consumers is:
- Don’t buy at the door – no matter who is calling or what they seem to be offering;
- Consider fitting doorstep cameras and video doorbells;
- Don’t open the door to anyone who turns up uninvited – regardless of their story. Keep the chain on;
- Always take your time – legitimate traders will not rush you to make a decision;
- If possible, choose a trader who has been recommended by family or friends;
- Get written quotes from at least three traders to compare prices;
- Don’t pay until the job is finished to your satisfaction;
- Watch out for vulnerable or older neighbours or family members; and
- Use the ‘Nominated Neighbour’ scheme – www.psni.police.uk/news/campaigns/nominated-neighbour-scheme/