Advice from Trading Standards Officer

ADVICE FROM MERTON’S TRADING STANDARDS DEPARTMENT AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU 

Over recent months Trading Standards and the Police have dealt with several instances in Raynes Park and West Barnes of residents falling victim to being cold called by rogue traders. One householder lost over £49,000 whilst attempts were made to defraud other residents of £45000 and £26000. 

Such stories have been highlighted on TV and in the Press many times and you may well think it will never happen to you, but it is so easy to get caught out before realising just what has happened.  

Typically, the rogue appears at the front door saying he is working locally and has noticed a roof tile or similar needs attention. If the resident shows any interest the job suddenly gets bigger. Mostly unnecessary work will be priced far above the market rate. Money is requested up front, usually in cash. The job will be left incomplete and work undertaken is of poor quality. If the householder makes a claim they find names and addresses not traceable. 

In light of this Merton and Richmond Trading Standards wishes to highlight the following:

Don’t buy at the door. This is the most important and effective way to avoid falling victim to traders calling at your door. Trading Standards recommend residents always say no to cold callers. 

Door Stickers stating “We don’t buy at the door from uninvited sales people” are available free of charge from Trading Standards. If you receive a visit you can simply point to the sticker and close the door.

Finding a reputable trader. Personal recommendations can be useful, so too can some trader approval schemes. The better schemes undertake detailed checks on the traders and provide useful customer feedback along with a route to complain. Schemes we recommend are “Buy with Confidence” (https://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/ ) , “Which? Trusted Traders” (http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/ ) and “Checkatrade” (http://www.checkatrade.com/ ). 

When older residents have smaller jobs we also recommend using the Merton Age Concern Handyperson scheme. Tasks they can do include household repairs, decorating, putting up curtains and much more. Further information can be found at http://www.ageuk.org.uk/merton/our-services/handyperson-service/ and tel. 020 8648 5792.  

Cancellation rights.  A written notice giving you 14 days to cancel should be provided if you agree a contract when a trader is in your home (with a few exceptions). It is an offence not to provide this. 

Contract information.  The trader must also supply other information in writing before the householder agrees the contract. This includes a description of the work to be carried out, the total price to pay inclusive of VAT, the name and address of the business and any phone numbers. 

Starting work without permission is a popular tactic employed by doorstep traders and an offence.  The rogue may use vague language so the consumer feels that maybe they inadvertently agreed; even though they didn’t. They may also start removing roof tiles and even walls so the house is no longer secure or watertight, giving the householder little option but to proceed with the work. 

Trader refuses to leave when asked. If you ask a trader to leave your home and they refuse then this is also an offence.   

Claims made by the trader. Doorstep traders often make false claims such as being a member of trade associations. They may also make statements that could have some element of truth but are nevertheless prohibited. For example, a salesman cannot imply they will lose their job if they cannot close the sale. 

Bogus official. Many victims of doorstep crime are targeted a second time by the rogue traders or their associates, this time claiming they are Trading Standards Officers, Police or other officials. These bogus officials say they are able to recover money paid to the original rogue trader, often claiming this is part of a court process. The bogusofficial always requires some form of payment to be made by the victim before any compensation can be paid. Unfortunately, several homeowners in Merton have lost large amounts of money to this scam. 

Look out for neighbours. The way that we find out about many of these incidents is by concerned neighbours letting us know. Victims may not be capable of contacting us or not even realise they are being defrauded. 

If you are concerned about unusual building work, particularly at the home of a neighbour who may be vulnerable, then let us know. We are happy to visit and check if the trader is genuine and if the householder needs assistance. 

Trading Standards can be contacted on tel. 020 8545 4018 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Mike O’Hare, Senior Trading Standards Officer, London Borough of Merton

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