People are being urged to check with their insurance firms before paying traders for household repair works.
In one recent case, a trader charged £11,000 for work that the insurance company then declined to reimburse, because they valued the work at under £2,000.
Devon and Somerset Trading Standards has issued the warning, stating that consumers can be left out of pocket when insurance companies don’t reimburse the full amount paid to a trader.
The situation can be avoided, say Trading Standards Officers, by following simple steps before committing to work.
• Don’t assume the work will be covered. Check your policy for exclusions and the amount of any excess you have to pay
• If it is not an emergency, take your time to shop around and compare quotes
• Be clear about what you are agreeing to. Fix a price and get everything in writing before work starts. Where an hourly rate is given, be aware of how long the job will take and how many people it will take to complete it
• Make sure you know who you are dealing with. Get a trading name and address before you agree to the work. Some traders hire phone numbers with codes that make them seem local when they are actually based in another part of the country
• When you agree the contract, the trader must give you details about your rights in writing. You have 14 days to change your mind and you should think carefully about agreeing to work that starts before the cooling off period ends
• Paying by credit card gives you extra protection if anything should go wrong provided the payment was over £100
• Consider using a local Buy With Confidence tradesman. These businesses are checked and approved by Trading Standards and display the Buy With Confidence logo. To find a business near you check the Buy With Confidence website www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk or call 01392 381381
• And don’t forget to look out for vulnerable neighbours and relatives who may be persuaded or pressured into agreeing to work they don’t need
Devon and Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Members responsible for the joint Trading Standards service have endorsed the advice.
Devon’s Cabinet Member, Cllr Roger Croad, said: “People don’t always check, and are then surprised to learn that either their policy doesn’t cover the work they’ve had done, or that they’ve paid an amount far higher than the insurance firm would agree to reimburse.
“There’s a warning here for consumers, and unscrupulous traders who charge more than the value of the work for ‘insurance jobs’.”
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member, said: “Previous experience has shown that some traders may seek to take advantage of those affected by unexpected problems, and I would urge anyone needing essential remedial work to follow the trading standards advice. We are determined to clamp down on any rogue traders and we will take robust action in all cases where dishonest practice is identified.”
For further pre-shopping advice, or to report a potential rogue trader, please contact the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 040506. If you feel threatened by a doorstep trader, please call the Police.