Last year one of my Ward residents was duped by a doorstep trader saying he could repair his roof very cheaply. The trader had gained the resident's trust by doing a simple job first and then (as is common apparently with rogue traders) asking to do something else for a bit more money.
When a neighbour spotted that the men on the roof were acting oddly, seemingly pretending to work, the quick thinking neighbour contacted RBC's Consumer Protection Team. In turn RBC rang the Police and within about half an hour the Police and Consumer Protection Team were at the house, and the workmen fled. The Police said the roofing group is being investigated by several different authorities.
I was struck by why these traders targeted an elderly resident. He is no fool, but possibly because of being of an older generation, not up-to-date with the going workmen's rates and perhaps being more trusting of people, he was taken in.
As a result I looked into the matter. I chatted with one of the Consumer Protection Team who coordinated the joint response with the Police. Also I found out about the Office of Fair Trading's (OFT's) campaign warning constituents to be on their guard against unscrupulous traders.
This year the OFT's campaign is targeting traders selling mobility aids on the doorstep. I contacted both of Reading's MPs, Rob Wilson & Alok Sharma, and as a result I'm very pleased to say they are both supporting the OFT’s campaign. They have put out the following valuable information:Mobility aids are products that are used by the elderly or disabled such as mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and walk-in baths. These items are often sold to vulnerable people in their home.
Consumer Direct, the OFT-managed advice service attracts a large number of calls from people complaining or asking for advice about mobility aids and in 2010, over 4,500 such calls were made.
Wilson said: “Mobility aids are important products for elderly and disabled people, which can significantly improve the quality of their lives. For many, they are an absolute necessity. We are supporting the OFT’s campaign for consumers to become more aware of the risks of doorstep sellers and the tricks they use to get people to agree to buy products that they may be able to purchase at a cheaper price elsewhere.”
Sharma added: “The OFT offers some practical tips on how people can avoid being scammed by rogue doorstep traders and the key thing is not to be forced into making any snap decisions which you may afterwards regret.”
The OFT advises:
• Do not make snap decisions. Take time to talk to someone you trust before you make a decision
• Shop around. Compare pricing and information on the various options available to you so that you are not over-charged
• Even if you invite a trader into your home, you should still be on the watch out. Consider asking a friend or family member to be with you when the trader visits you in the home
For advice on doorstep selling, please contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040 506 or visit www.direct.gov.uk/consumer or www.oft.gov.uk/doorstepselling