Beware doorstep traders, says OFT

The Office of Fair Trading is launching a campaign warning consumers, especially the elderly and vulnerable, to be on their guard against rogue doorstep traders, as the peak summer season kicks off.
With complaints about home maintenance at their height in the summer months from July through to the autumn, the OFT is urging householders to be cautious and take time to think about people who call at their door.
Rogue doorstep traders will often offer services at attractive rates and use persuasive sales techniques to encourage people into making hasty decisions, says the OFT, with home improvements topping the list of complaints.
Last year, Consumer Direct received more than 13,000 complaints about uninvited traders and almost half of these complaints (5,718) related to home maintenance work. The top five complaints about this group in 2010 were:
• Roofing – 1725 (30%)
• Tarmacing and paving – 1088 (19%)
• Insulation – 663 (12%)
• General building work – 573 (10%)
• Burglar alarms – 348 (6%).
Consumer Direct deputy operations manager Michele Shambrook said: “It is not illegal for handymen to canvas for work, but it is important that people are cautious and do not make hasty decisions.
“Rogue doorstep trading is an ongoing problem in the UK and work or service carried out can sometimes be unnecessary, of a poor standard, much more expensive than originally quoted or not done at all. This campaign is helping people to recognise the warning signs, so that they have the confidence to say no if they’re unsure about what is being offered.”

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