Wrexham Trading Standards have received a number of complaints from residents who entered into contracts for building work or home repairs with traders found online, either through the trader’s own website or online trade directories.
Recently a vulnerable elderly resident of Wrexham found a roofer through one such website and paid over several hundred pounds in cash for repairs.
Although a receipt for payment was issued, it contained very little detail about this particular trader. When the residents’ roof developed a severe leak soon after the work was done, they were unable to identify and contact the trader to get the work put right or take action to get their money back.
Often, traders who advertise in this way do not give out full details such as address and registered business name and number. Be wary if they only give out a mobile number as it can be harder to get back in touch if there are problems.
If the website you are thinking of using asks you to fill in a form to request a trader, and they get in touch with you, make sure they are happy to give you all their contact details and check these out as much as possible. If they seem reluctant, it’s best to find someone else.
If a trader has their own website, it may look very professional, but check it contains all their contact information and check any advertised claims such as memberships of trade associations and qualifications.
“Take some time to consider”
Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, said: “If you do ask a trader to visit, make sure they give you a detailed quote to carry out the work and take some time to consider it. Be very wary if they are reluctant to put things in writing, a reliable trader should be happy to do this.
“The quote should include the fixed price including VAT, and breakdown of the work to be done and materials needed, details of when payment will be due, full contact details for the trader, and your rights to cancel the contract if that is applicable.
“Avoid paying large deposits upfront in cash or by bank transfer. Remember that if you hand over money in this way with no contact details for the trader, you may not be able to exercise your consumer rights or get your money back.”
Trading Standards may also not be able to identify them to investigate any suspected criminal offences. Unfortunately Trading Standards have been made aware of several incidents where this has been the case.
Tips for choosing a trader
• If possible get recommendations from people you know and check examples of work they have had done.
• Be wary of online reviews that may not be genuine.
• If you use a trader approval scheme, look what checks are carried out before traders are able to join, and whether the scheme provide a redress scheme if there are problems. There are a wide variety of schemes, some with lots of checks, and some that are just advertising directories with no checks carried out on traders on the list. Trading Standards approved schemes such as Buy With Confidence have certain safeguards. Traders have to meet certain standards and are audited by their local Trading Standards before they are allowed to be included in the scheme. You can find details on their website www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk
• Interview contractors before you hire, then ask lots of questions, and give a clear and detailed description of exactly what you want done. Make sure you can communicate with them easily as this will help you sort out any problems that may arise.
• Don’t feel pressured to agree to enter into a contract. Try to compare different traders. If you’re not comfortable, don’t hire them and find someone else.
• Check they have the required approvals for the work they are proposing to carry out e.g. Gas Safe or OFTEC registration, or are a registered electrician for installation work.
Further useful advice can also be found on the website citizensadvice.org.uk
You can also report problems and get consumer advice through the website or by phoning 0808 2231133.
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