The latest Citizens Advice Consumer Service figures reveal that there were almost 900 doorstep selling complaints in Kent last year, with 135 of these complaints coming from the Medway Towns. Around 40% of these complaints involved substandard products or services. In a push to protect the vulnerable, Tracey is supporting the Citizens Advice Bureaux and Kent Trading Standards joining forces with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Doorstep Selling campaign during National Consumer Week in November, empowering Chatham and Aylesford residents to deal with untoward doorstep sellers.
Research conducted on behalf of the Office of Fair Trading highlights the elderly as being particularly at risk of doorstep selling scams. One in five people over the age of 70 who were interviewed admitted to not being confident in deciding whether to employ a tradesperson and a fifth of those questioned couldn’t see through pressure sales tactics such as having to pay cash in advance or having to make a quick decision to get a good deal.
Kent County Council Head of Regulatory Services Group, Mike Overbeke, said “Not all doorstep sellers are bogus, however, unlawful traders can be unscrupulous and use a range of persuasive tactics to sell seemingly irresistible offers to unsuspecting and often vulnerable people in their homes. I’m urging everyone who knows or cares for a vulnerable, elderly person to make sure they are aware of their rights when it comes to suspect door step approaches. No one should feel pressured into making a rash buying decision. If in doubt always think twice and get a second opinion.”
Caroline Farquhar of the Citizens Advice West Kent Consumer Empowerment Partnership said: “Complaints about home maintenance and illegitimate doorstep sellers traditionally peak in the summer months but rogue doorstep selling does occur all year round. While it is not illegal to canvas for work door to door, rogue doorstep trading remains a serious issue for vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly who live alone. Decisions made on the doorstep can result in a great amount of distress for those who are duped out of money for substandard products or services. It is crucial to be aware of your consumer rights and share this knowledge.”
Tracey in encouraging constituents to follow the OFT’s top 10 tips on how to deal with doorstep sellers:
Ten Top Tips: Buy Wisely and Safely on your Doorstep or in your home
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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 Service on 08454 04 05 06