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Caithness News Bulletins March 2006

March 2006 February 2006

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Highland Council    
PUBLIC URGED TO BE ON GUARD AGAINST ROGUE ITINERANT TRADERS
Householders in the Highlands are being warned to be on their guard against workmen and itinerant traders known to be operating door-to-door offering to carry out house maintenance and repairs.

Highland Council's Trading Standards Officers are aware itinerant traders are making cold calls in the Highlands, offering free estimates for roof repairs and roof cleaning and charging grossly inflated prices which are said to include large discounts.

Nigel Mackenzie, Head of Trading Standards, said: "At this time of year, householders are starting to think of jobs needing done around the house and garden. We are aware that itinerant traders are currently knocking on doors pointing out house maintenance work that they say is necessary. They are offering what they claim are discount deals which can seem attractive bargains at the time. Householders are often caught off guard and will readily agree to the work without a second thought.

"We have had recent instances of householders being grossly overcharged for work which may have been unnecessary. An elderly woman in her eighties was recently charged 1200 to have her roof and window cleaned and the replacement of a few roof tiles which she was told included a 30% discount. The trader then drove her to the bank to withdraw this cash and fortunately the bank teller was intuitive enough to enquire about the reasons for withdrawing such a large sum. When the story unfolded the bank contacted the police and the trader did not receive any payment."

Mr MacKenzie continued: "Itinerant traders making unsolicited visits to homes must give the householder a written notice that they have a cooling off period. Customers can change their minds and cancel within seven days. If the customer does not receive a cancellation notice, then the deal is not enforceable and the tradesmen cannot insist on payment. Additionally, they may have committed a criminal offence and Trading Standards would be interested to hear of this."

Householders are being advised that if itinerant traders approach them, to consider what comeback they may have if any work agreed turns out to be unsatisfactory or unnecessary, particularly if the trader is not locally established. Also consider obtaining several quotes from local traders to ensure charges are reasonable and the work is necessary. If anyone feels threatened or uneasy about a visit from unknown traders they should contact the police.

Householders can contact the Trading Standards Unit with any concerns by telephoning The Highland Council Consumer Helpline 0845 600 4222 (local rate, mobile call costs may vary) or by e-mail at consumer.advice@highland.gov.uk