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Householders be wary: a reminder from the Office of Fair Trading 23 July 2010

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading has issued a warning to householders to be extremely wary of using builders who call at their homes without an appointment offering to do work.

This warning was issued after Trading Standards caught up with a gang of itinerants who had been operating in the Island within the last week or so. The itinerants did not have the requisite work permits and were cold-calling offering to do roofing and guttering work. Past experience of such traders indicates that the quality of their work is often of a very poor standard. Despite numerous warnings issued by the OFT consumers are still falling victim.

Trading Standards tackled the gang after receiving complaints from concerned householders. They were left in no doubt that they would be prosecuted if they continued to trade. The gang left on the next available ferry.

One householder had nearly been conned into handing over more than £6000 in cash to the gang before they had even started on the job but fortunately contacted the Office for advice. An intervention by Trading Standards meant that the householder concerned did not pay the conmen a penny.

Consumers approached by these builders are often persuaded to accept their offer because they are cheaper than local builders and they can begin straightaway. Good local building firms are often very busy and may not be able to start straightaway but waiting for them is a much better option and if problems do occur with their work the firms are still here to sort things out.

John Peet (Acting Chief Officer) said “These itinerant conmen can be smarter than we perhaps give them credit for. This particular gang had magnetic signage that could easily be stuck on or removed from the side of their Ford Transit. The signage made it appear that they were genuine traders, however, householders should still have been alerted by the fact that their van was not locally registered and, more significantly, by the fact that they were cold-calling, a practice that the OFT is trying to outlaw.”

Mr Henderson, Chairman of the OFT advises “If anyone calls at your door offering work, or passing comment that your property requires work – shut the door, with a ‘no thank you’. If you are persistently pestered or worried, call a family member for advice and certainly the police if necessary. Your MHK will also be happy to advise you. These people usually will have no identification, no locally registered business or business premises or a bona fide land line number. They will also invariably not be registered here on the IOM with the Government or the Employers Federation. Do not hand any cash over to someone who just turns up on your doorstep.”

Mr Henderson went on to issue a stern warning to these ‘rogue traders’ – “You are not welcome on our Island, and I have instructed the OFT to do everything within its powers to ensure your stay will be as uncomfortable as possible and that you either desist your opportunistic preying on the vulnerable and elderly of this Island, or you leave. I would strongly urge any member of our community who is suspicious of this kind of thing to immediately report what they know to the OFT. I am especially concerned as these people prey on the vulnerable and elderly”. The Office produces a leaflet “Home Improvements – A guide to having work done on your home” which can be obtained from the Office in Lord Street, Douglas, telephone 686500 or from its website www.gov.im/oft

If a householder is concerned that they may have fallen foul of these problem builders they should contact the Office’s Trading Standards staff on 686520.

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