Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police crack down on rogue tradersBeat The Cowboy Builder
Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police have teamed up for Operation Liberal.
This week is National Operation Rogue Trader week which combines enforcement action with advice to residents on how to protect themselves.
Rogue traders and pushy doorstep sellers con vulnerable people by overcharging, charging for unnecessary work, damaging property deliberately, leaving work unfinished and intimidating behaviour in order to extort money (e.g. taking a customer to an ATM for payment).
This multi-agency approach saw teams comprising members of staff from each organisation, combing the County, seeking out rogue traders. Having different agencies with various responsibilities allowed effective and swift action to be taken against those who flout the law.
Suspects faced a multi-pronged approach – where one line of enquiry failed, another angle may have been appropriate. For example if we were checking vehicles were taxed and insured and that individuals were paying national insurance.
Working together with all the agencies relevant allowed us to form a one stop shop enforcement team to help prevent any potential offenders from slipping through the net.
Two joint agency teams covered the East and West of the County. The brief was to to conduct enquiries, respond to reports of potential rogue trading and raise awareness of the issue within local communities. Patrols will continue until Friday 11 April.
Detective Inspector Andy Beaver for Lincolnshire Police urged people to help the operation by reporting any suspicious activity. He said:
“Rogue traders target the most vulnerable in our community using underhand tactics. You might not necessarily fall for them yourself but it might be that your elderly neighbour or relative could. That’s why we want people to report any suspicions about anyone living or working in your neighborhood. Your call could save further people from falling victim.
“Alarm bells should ring if a caller suggests work that you don’t think you need or does not agree a set price for the work. If you say you don’t have the cash to pay, a rogue trader may well persuade you to go to an ATM with them. A reputable tradesperson would never do this. These people have no scruples and when you consider that it is the most vulnerable people who fall victim, we hope you won’t need any further incentive to pick up the phone and report any suspicions you may have. It will help us to investigate if you make notes on the appearance and clothing of the suspect and take down any details of their vehicle.”
Tim Dawson, principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, comments:
“Doorstep crime can affect anyone, but most often it is the elderly and vulnerable who are targeted. Rogue traders can be very persuasive and convincing in their approach and it can be very distressing and frightening for an elderly or vulnerable person who is unaware of how to protect themselves.
“Tracking down and catching these rogue traders is an absolute priority for Lincolnshire County Council’s Trading Standards teams. Working with our partners, including Lincolnshire Police and HMRC, we are committed to working together to tackle this issue and will take appropriate enforcement action against those involved.”
Jane Miller from HMRC’s Hidden Economy Team, added:
“This joint operation is just one of HMRC’s Hidden Economy Team’s crackdowns on the dishonest minority of people who try to keep outside of the tax system. If you are caught you may not only have to pay what you owe but additional penalties and interest on top. If you know of anyone trading or working and not paying their dues, please tell us via the Police 101 number.”
Safety advice for residents
The Office of Fair Trading has developed ten top tips to help you buy safely and with confidence on your doorstep – and to help you say ‘no’ when you need to.
- Don’t sign on the spot
Don’t feel pressured to agree on the spot- if you are interested in what they are selling, you can ask them to come back at another time that is more convenient for you, maybe when you have someone else with you or you’ve shopped around.
- Check the trader’s identity
Always ask for an identity card and look up the organisation to check the salesperson’s identity is genuine. Don’t use the number on their card. Check if the trader is a member of a reputable trade body, like the Direct Selling Association, whose members should ensure their salespeople sell responsibly.
- Be wary of special offers or warnings about your home
Don’t get taken in by sales banter or high pressure selling techniques. Don’t be hurried into a decision even if there is a discount. The discount might be on a price that is too high in the first place.
- Always shop around for the best price
Check with other companies offering the same product first. Make sure the price and product is right for you.
- Read the small print
Always read documents carefully before you sign them and make sure you fully understand your rights. It’s best to ask salespeople to call back so you can do this in your own time – don’t be rushed into signing before you feel ready.
- Double check the facts
Make sure you fully understand the total costs of the transaction – including estimates, delivery and installation and the arrangements for after-sales servicing, such as the guarantees or warranties. Only agree to make a purchase once you’re entirely satisfied that the transaction is acceptable.
- Talk to someone you trust for a second opinion
Take the time to talk to someone you trust – for example your family, a friend or carer – before you sign anything.
- Don’t hand over a cash deposit
Avoid handing over money before work is started. A reliable trader will never ask you to do this (even if they need materials). Never agree to go with a trader to the bank to take money out.
- Think very carefully before you agree to a trader starting any work straight away
If you agree to have any work done or goods delivered within the seven day cooling-off period, you may have to pay if you later change your mind and cancel the contract.
- Trust your instincts
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
And finally … it’s OK to say no
Remember it’s your doorstep and your decision. If you feel pressured for any reason ask the person to leave.
If in doubt, visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
A quick guide: your rights when buying on the doorstep or in the home
Doorstep selling is when a salesperson sells you goods or services in your home or on your doorstep. This Quick Guide explains people’s rights when they agree to spend more than £35 with a trader in their home or on their doorstep. These rights apply even if you invite someone into your home.
Written cancellation notice
By law the trader must give you a written cancellation notice at the time you buy, telling you about your right to cancel (even if there is no written contract). If you don’t get a cancellation notice, there’s no binding contract between you and the trader and you don’t have to go through with the sale.
Seven day cooling off period
You usually have a cooling-off period of seven days to change your mind and cancel.
The cooling-off period starts on the day you get the cancellation notice. If you cancel within the seven days you won’t owe anything and you should get back any money you have already paid (including a deposit).
Deciding to cancel
If you do decide to cancel the contract you must let the trader know in writing within seven days of receiving the cancellation notice. When cancelling, keep a copy of your letter or email as proof of cancellation. If you send your letter by post, get proof of postage as well. If you receive goods during the cooling-off period and you didn’t agree to this in writing, you don’t have to pay anything if you cancel. Keep the goods safe and ask the trader to collect them. The trader should not insist that you pay any money.
Starting work or delivering goods within the cooling-off period
If you are buying services or certain types of goods (e.g. customised goods) you can agree in writing for work to start or goods to be delivered during the cooling-off period. If you have agreed this in writing then you can still cancel within seven days, but you may have to pay the trader something (usually a reasonable amount).
For more information about the campaign visit www.oft.gov.uk/doorstepselling
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