Buying on the doorstep

HAVE you been cold-called by someone offering to carry out work at your home, such as tarring your driveway or roofing repairs, or offering to sell you goods such as double glazing or alarm systems?

In Aberdeenshire there has been a significant increase in complaints over the last three years relating to problems with cold-callers.

Examples include:

A resident near Stonehaven was cold-called by men offering to do tarring work at a cost of £2 per square foot. The resident asked for two potholes to be filled and expected this to cost £40 to £50. However, the workmen tarred a much larger area and then demanded £1,600

An Aberdeenshire resident contacted a landscape gardener through an ad in Yellow Pages. The trader used a 01224 number so the consumer believed he was local. However, calls to the number were redirected to the trader’s mobile phone. The trader was given a substantial deposit and disappeared without doing any work

An elderly gentleman negotiated to get a lockblock drive laid for £2,500. When the work was finished the trader demanded £3,500. Despite feeling the work was shoddy the consumer felt threatened and eventually agreed to pay £3,000. The trader returned next day demanding a further £500 and threatening to damage his property if he didn’t receive his money. The consumer had to call the police

A man contacted trading standards very concerned about his elderly parents. His father had received a telephone call from a company offering to supply an alarm system and they were subsequently visited by a salesman. The salesman stayed for four hours and persuaded him to sign a contract for an alarm system for £5,000 which they didn’t need

Wilma Urquhart, Trading Standards manager, said: “We are urging consumers to think carefully before agreeing to buy from a doorstep seller. It can be a convenient way to buy and not all cold callers are disreputable - but there is a risk you may be pressured into buying something you do not want or that is not good value for money.”

There are a number of steps you can take to help avoid problems:

Don’t sign on the spot- give yourself time to think it over and obtain other quotes. A reputable trader will be happy for you to take time to decide

Ask friends and neighbours for a recommendation for a reliable, trustworthy trader

Don’t provide money up front- you risk never seeing it or the trader again, and never agree to be taken to your bank to withdraw money

Don’t agree to a trader starting work straight away- you should get a seven-day cooling off period if the goods are worth more than £35 and you don’t have to pay if you don’t get this in writing

Make sure you have a genuine contact address for the trader- don’t rely on telephone numbers which may not be answered if you find a problem later. And don’t assume a local code such as 01224 means the trader is based locally- these numbers can be purchased and calls redirected to mobile telephone numbers

Don’t be afraid to say no- aggressive sales practices are now illegal and if you ask them to leave it is a criminal offence if they refuse. Call the police if you feel threatened

If you have fallen victim to a doorstep seller or want to report anything suspicious please call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.