Rogue traders cost the UK thousands of pounds every year, and there is seemingly a fresh news article about cowboy traders every few weeks. With the number of services available online, it can be difficult to notice the differences between rogue traders and genuine companies when you’re looking for an emergency service. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure you aren’t ripped off by rogue traders.
Research locksmiths before you need one
While it may not sound cost-effective, choosing an emergency locksmith before you find yourself locked out of your house could save you time and money in the long run. Getting locked out can be a source of anxiety and upset, and looking for a quick fix to get back into your home. However, you can bypass this panic by simply knowing who you should call in an emergency.
Picking a locksmith in a hurry makes it more likely that you could end up with a rogue locksmith, whose prices will be much higher than you should be paying. So-called cowboy locksmiths may take advantage of your vulnerable state; as security experts Bridger Security explain in their guide to how much a locksmith costs: “A fair price for a locksmith should rarely exceed £300, and will almost definitely be lower.” Researching an emergency locksmith beforehand will allow you to find out their average price, so you know how much you will be spending if you ever find yourself accidentally locked out.
Protect yourself from cowboy builders by checking their references
The Citizens Advice consumer service received 40,000 complaints last year, with problems related to home maintenance and improvements. Two thirds of these complaints were regarding substandard services, such as jobs that were completed late, or with poor workmanship, and there were almost 5,000 problems related to roofing. With alarming figures like these, homeowners looking to have work completed should be vigilant when looking for a trader. There are a few things you should look out for before making your decision to ensure you’re not caught out, such as checking references either online, or from family and friends. If you don’t have relatives or friends that can suggest any traders for your home, sites such as Trust A Trader will allow you to check references from other consumers.
Most rogue builders will not have insurance, which could be disastrous for you in the event of an accident. You should try and make sure that your builder is covered under relevant insurance, and that they are qualified and work for an accredited business that is part of the Federation of Master Builders. Discuss your plans with the builder in advance and get a written quote, which is legally binding, as well as a written contract before you begin any work on the house.
Check basic business information to avoid being ripped off
Rogue traders are only a small minority of traders, however they have attached a stigma to the trade. According to research commissioned by Plentific, 13 million homeowners in the UK worry about hiring a tradesman—almost 90 per cent of those surveyed. The main fears behind these results concerned being ripped off and bodged jobs. However, there are a few basic pieces of information you could check to ensure you avoid being ripped off, or dealing with a dodgy trader. For example, ensure that the trader you’re considering working with has a listed premises and a landline number. Cowboy traders will likely operate with a van and a mobile phone, making it difficult to get in contact with them, or the business, if you need it.
Every year, under Operation Rogue Trader, the UK cracks down on cowboy traders; this year marked the 12th year of the campaign, in which organisations target sellers across the UK. Last year, almost 300 people were arrested as a result, and almost £3 million worth of property was recovered, and over 5,000 vehicles inspected. If you have been caught up with a rogue trader, it’s important to report it to Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.