31st October 2022

Rogue traders exploit energy fears

Cold-callers are using high-pressure sales tactics to trick people into installing bogus energy-efficiency measures.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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These rogue doorstep callers are preying on the most vulnerable in our communities and promising them all sorts of lies to help with the cost of living

CTSI is warning that rogue traders are preying on people struggling to heat their homes by using high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.

The Institute has noted an increase in complaints about cold callers knocking on doors and telling homeowners they may be eligible for free insulation under a government funding scheme. The rogues then use pressure-selling and persuasive jargon about the energy crisis to make the householders agree to pay for work upfront, with assurances they can claim the costs back later.

CTSI Lead Officer for Scams and Doorstep Crime, Katherine Hart. said: “Times are tough for people right now, and every penny is needed for some households to just keep their heads above water. These rogue doorstep callers are preying on the most vulnerable in our communities and promising them all sorts of lies to help with the cost of living. However, these criminals will prey on anyone, of any age and any background.”

As reported last week, in some instances fraudsters have offered a ‘free health check’ of the householder’s roof, resulting in false claims about poor insulation and issues with damp and mould. Spray foam is then offered as a solution to resolve the issues, even if this is not necessary. Problems with selling the homes or applying for mortgages have emerged subsequently since the work has not been carried out properly.

“We know that reputable traders may have a backlog at the moment, but we have to be patient and not fall foul of a scam that may cost dearly in the future,” said Hart.

“Trading Standards are doing all they can to stamp out these unscrupulous traders, but consumer education is key. Warn your grandparents, your parents and your neighbours to never engage with anyone that turns up unannounced at the door.”

John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI, said: “There has been a 28% increase in doorstep crime in the past year. Many criminals are using the cost-of-living crisis to exploit consumers at a time when they are making tough decisions about whether to heat their homes, or feed their families.

“Trading Standards continues the fight to stamp out these criminals by working in partnership with other agencies, but this has become increasingly difficult as gaps in consumer protection are emerging. Although Trading Standards is doing its utmost to protect the public, we remain concerned about the increased levels of risk, and the potential for this to deteriorate is leaving the most vulnerable unprotected.”

Chief Executive at HEIS Consumer Code, Faisal Hussain, said: “In these difficult and challenging times when we are experiencing an increase in energy bills, it is even more important to ensure that you are vigilant for any scams or too-good-to-be-true offers. Please do your research and never make a snap decision. Look at gaining two to three quotes from installers who are accredited and monitored to help ensure you are protected.”

Herriman added: “We remind the public how important it is to report these crimes as Trading Standards action is intelligence-led, so the resources will be focused on where the detriment is at its highest and consumers are most at risk. If you live in England and Wales you can report to The Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133, Scotland should call 0808 800 9060 and Northern Ireland residents can report to 0300 123 6262. Help us to rid our streets of these con-artists cashing in on our most vulnerable.”

 

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