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How to deal with rogue traders

IF you receive uninvited traders knocking on your door or unsolicited telephone calls from traders seeking to visit you at home, you need to know what the law says about this.

Not all traders turning up on your door are rogues; however, you will all be aware of local incidents where older or isolated people have been the victim of a doorstep crime or unscrupulous practice of one sort or another:

Paying an exorbitant price for house repairs or garden maintenance

Having to pay in cash in full before the job is finished

Being left with an incomplete job and refusal from the trader to finish the job or undertake repairs

No way to get the job finished because you have only a mobile telephone number to trace the number

Having your possessions stolen whilst being distracted by a doorstep caller/bogus official or their accomplice.

There are laws that seek to protect you from unscrupulous traders ripping you off for goods and services supplied following a visit to your home.


Know Your Rights!

It is not illegal for traders to sell goods through knocking on doors and it is not illegal for traders to telephone you at home out of the blue.

However, if you don't want to receive uninvited telephone calls from traders, you can stop them by registering with the Telephone Preference Service. The service is free.

It is not illegal for traders to advertise their services by putting unsolicited mail shots or flyers through your letterbox. If you receive a flyer and are interested in contracting for the services offered by the trader, you will generally be provided with a contact telephone number for the trader.

If you call the trader and agree to a visit to your home at an agreed time to discuss any service, you will not have any legal right to cancel the contract; there is no cooling-off period available through the law when you expressly agree to a home visit following a response to a mail shot or flyer.

A common tactic used by mobile rogue traders is to distribute flyers that recommend that you place their flyer in a conspicuous place in your front windows or front door if you want to take up their services. You should be aware that this is a selling practice used by mobile traders who are 'here today and gone tomorrow'. You are unlikely to be able to get such traders back to undertake free repairs on shoddy or incomplete jobs.

BEWARE of traders who request that you place their flyers in your window.

BEWARE of traders who are do not provide landline telephone numbers on their flyers.

BEWARE of traders who do not provide you with the proper name of the business and a full address for the business advertised on the flyer.

BEWARE of traders who only provide a mobile telephone number on their flyers.

If you don't want to receive uninvited mail shots from traders, you can stop them by registering with the Mail Preference Service. The service is free.

The Mail Preference Service cannot stop unaddressed leaflets, items addressed to "The Occupier", "The Householder" or a business, nor free newspapers and inserts in magazines and bills. Some local mailings may also not be stopped. In addition, it may not stop mail from overseas; organisations will often base themselves overseas in order to avoid legal and self-regulatory restrictions.

The Business Names Act 1985 makes it a criminal offence for traders not to provide you with their proper name and address on business paperwork: letters, invoices, estimates, notices of cancellation etc.

If you answer the door to traders who are reluctant to provide you with written information about their business beware.


For doorstep sellers, REMEMBER:

BEWARE of traders who are not prepared to leave you any paperwork.

BEWARE of traders who do not provide you with the full name of the business and a landline telephone and an address.

BEWARE of traders who do not carry an identification card

BEWARE of traders who do carry an identification card, but are not prepared to let you take it off them for close examination.

BEWARE of traders with identification cards that do not have a landline telephone number on them to allow you to confirm the identity of the doorstep caller by calling the premises of the trader.

BEWARE of traders who recommend that you call a mobile telephone number to check their identity.

Do not agree to purchase goods or services from doorstep sellers without checking their identification cards and confirming the identity of the caller. Any reputable trader will carry identification cards that you can examine and provide you with a landline telephone number to confirm identity. Keep the trader outside when you are checking identification.

Remember the law of trespass: If you are uneasy for any reason about a trader being in your home, you have a right to ask them to leave immediately. If they refuse, they are trespassing on your property. Phone 999 and contact the Police. However, it is much better not to let them in at all.

The Consumer Protection (Cancellation of Contracts Concluded Away from Business Premises) Regulations 1987 (known as the "Doorstep Selling Regulations") provides you with some legal protection if you agree to buy goods or services on the doorstep or in your home.

Many people believe that the Doorstep Selling Regulations provide you with 7 days in which to cancel any contracts made at home. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Sometimes, you have a legal entitlement to cancel the contract and sometimes you don't.


Doorstep callers

Organised traders who trade exclusively through cold calling will contact you by telephone before turning up on your door. They do this because consumers do not want to have traders turning up unannounced at their front door and, therefore, provide an impression of reputable trading practice. If you agree to a home visit by a trader over the telephone following a telesales cold call, you will retain a legal right to cancel any goods or services purchased.

You will normally have 7 days in which to change your mind and cancel the contract. However, remember that the law also states that if the service (e.g. the installation of a burglar alarm and smoke detectors) has started before the cancellation period has finished, the trader is legally entitled to be paid a reasonable cost for the service provided up to the time at which you cancel the contract. As a result, organised traders will seek to undertake and complete the service as quickly as possible after your agreement to have work undertaken by the trader.

Beware of traders who seek to rush you into having a service undertaken shortly after you agree to have the work done. If you do want to have the service, make it clear during the home visit that you will not accept commencement of the work during the initial 7 days and make sure that this condition is in writing. This leaves you time in which to think about the nature and cost of the service and cancel the contract without penalty if you subsequently change your mind.

If you receive an unexpected telesales call and don't make a definite appointment for the trader to visit you at home, you will have cancellation rights if you later decide to purchase goods or services from that trader if they unexpectedly turn up knocking on your door at a later date.

If a trader simply turns up on your doorstep and offer to sell you goods or services, The Doorstep Selling Regulations give you 7 days in which you are entitled to change your mind and cancel the contract.

When traders turn up unexpectedly on your doorstep seeking work or to sell you goods, they must provide you with NOTICE IN WRITING of your right to cancel. You have 7 days in which you can change your mind and cancel the contract. It is a criminal offence if you are not provided with this notice.

Reputable traders will provide with written notice of your legal rights, beware of traders that don't do this.

If you have a service provided by an unexpected doorstep seller and you do not receive written notice of your right to cancel the contract, the contract is unenforceable. This means that you do not have to pay anything for the service. Rogue traders do not like this and have been known to threaten people or property if they don't get paid. Report any threats to yourself or your property to the Police immediately.


Safety Tips

Care should always be taken when you receive an unexpected knock on the door. Take the following simple steps to guard against unwanted callers:

Fit and use a door security chain every time that you open the door:



LOCK - Home or away – Keep all doors locked

STOP – Are you expecting anybody?

CHAIN – Put the chain before opening the door

CHECK – Always ask for identification. If they don't have an identification card, don't let them in. If the identification card given doesn't have a landline telephone number on it, don't let them in. If the telephone number is for a mobile telephone, don't let them in. Ring a telephone number for the employer of the representative found independently in your local telephone directory. Telephone numbers given to you on identification cards may not be genuine.

Don't agree to have any work done at your home without a second opinion from another reputable trader.

Don't agree to any offers to do gardening, roofing, guttering, drainage, driveway or electrical work with anybody who turns up uninvited to your door

Don't agree to any offers to install burglar alarms or other security work with anybody who turns up uninvited to your door

Don't agree to have any work done where the caller says that they're only in the area for a short time.

Don't agree to have any work done if you are offered a discount if you agree today

If you find that the caller is genuine and you agree to buy goods or a service from them, you will usually have seven days to cancel the contract

You must be provided with a notice in writing about your right to cancel. The trader is committing a criminal offence if this is not given to you.

Telephone your local Trading Standards if you have concerns about the caller or want detailed advice.

Never keep large amounts of money in your house

Keep purses, wallets, cheque books and credit cards out of sight

Telephone the Police if you are concerned about your personal safety or concerned about damage to your property.


These guidelines were produced by Cambridgeshire Trading Standards and give you a guide to the way in which householders can protect themselves.