Warning over ‘cowboy builders’

TRADING standards chiefs have issued a warning after a number of incidents involving rogue traders in the past fortnight.

Hartlepool Borough Council has been made aware of three incidents involving “cowboy builders” carrying out poor quality work at hugely inflated prices. They fear that other incidents may be going unreported.

Trading standards officials say such doorstep crime can affect anyone but it is often elderly and vulnerable people who are targeted.

Some callers offer services such as window or guttering cleaning, path or driveway repairs, roofing or building work, gardening and tree lopping. Others falsely claim to be from the local authority, police or health agencies.

The doorstep callers are said to be convincing in their approach, often charging large amount of money for little or no work before pressurising victims into paying.

Rachael Byron, from the council’s trading standards service, said: “While not all doorstep sellers operate illegally, unscrupulous traders will use persuasive tactics to sell seemingly irresistible offers to unsuspecting and often vulnerable people.

“Everyone who knows or cares for a vulnerable or elderly person should make sure they are aware of their rights when it comes to suspect doorstep approaches. No one should feel pressured into making a rash buying decision.

“If in doubt always think twice and get a second opinion. Any trader who pushes for an immediate decision should be treated with extreme caution. Remember it’s your doorstep and your decision. It is ok to say no.”

The following 10 tips have now been issued to help residents buy safely and confidently on their doorsteps:

● Don’t sign on the spot.

● Check a trader’s identity. Look for an address on paperwork. A mobile phone number alone may indicate that the trader is not from the local area and may be passing through.

● Be wary of special offers or warnings about your home.

● Always shop around for the best price.

● Read the small print.

● Double check the facts.

● Talk to someone you trust for a second opinion.

● Don’t hand over a cash deposit.

● Think carefully before you agree to a trader starting work straight away.

● Trust your instincts – if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

For further advice, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0845 040506 or Hartlepool trading standards on (01429) 523362.