Issued By
North Yorkshire County Council

DOORSTEP CRIME - NATIONAL CONSUMER WEEK

FOR OVER ten years, the Trading Standards Institute has organised National Consumer Week, which this year will have the theme “Foot in the Door”, and focus on doorstep crime and consumer’s rights when buying from doorstep callers. 

North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards Service, in conjunction with many other organisations, is committed to tackling the menace of doorstep criminals, many who prey on the elderly and most vulnerable.

On Thursday 14 November at The Cairn Hotel, Harrogate, from 9.45am - 1.00pm, there will be a major regional seminar involving representatives from enforcement agencies such as the police and trading standards, local authorities and a whole host of other interested groups and organisations.

The following are recent examples of doorstep crime from within North Yorkshire.

Roofing - Harrogate

An 87 year old man in the Harrogate area was called on and told he needed work doing to his roof.  He was then bullied into going to the bank and handing over nearly £800 with a promise that the trader would come back and do the work.  Needless to say, the trader has not been seen since.

Wall Cladding - Harrogate

An elderly man in the Harrogate area was told by a doorstep caller that they weren’t selling anything, merely carrying out an awareness campaign.  As a result of being pleasant and “chatty” on the doorstep, the householder was then pestered by calls from a company wanting to sell external wall cladding products.

Fascia Boards and Home Improvements - York

A woman in York received a cold call from a salesman who pressurised her into signing a contract for new fascia boards to her home.  Despite trying to cancel the following day, the trader refused to accept this and refused to return her money.  The law states that she has seven days rights to cancel but rogue businesses rarely tell consumers about this and often pressurise them into completing the work quickly so that the rights cannot be exercised.

Roof “Repair” - Scarborough

An elderly man in his 80’s was persuaded by a doorstep caller that urgent repairs were needed on his roof.  The caller took £400 to do the work. He then ‘conned’ the householder out of another £2,000 for further work but has failed to return.

Tarmac Gangs - Throughout the Area

A number of complaints have been made to the Trading Standards Service.  £1000’s have been taken from householders for shoddy, poor quality and vastly overpriced work.  Commonly, consumers are told by the gangs that they have spare tarmac left over from another job and that to re-lay their drive with this would only cost a couple of hundred pounds.  In reality, the work is extremely poor quality and at the end of the day is usually thousands of pounds which consumers are pressurised into paying. 

Tree Fellers/Surgeons - Regional

They are known to target older people and cold call at their homes.  The work is done straightaway often badly or not completed at all followed by demands for immediate cash payment.  One particular gang is known to use this method to identify vulnerable householders so that they can return at a later date, often posing as a bogus water official or similar. 

Pressure Selling of Gas/Electricity - National

Complaints are frequently received about the selling tactics of gas/electricity utilities.  These involve door to door salespersons allegedly pressurising people into switching to another company.

Door to Door Sales of TVs and Videos - (The most recent in Northallerton)

Door to door sales of used TVs and videos usually involves “too good to be true” offers which indeed turn out to be “too good to be true”.  Often the TVs and videos are shrink-wrapped making them appear re-conditioned but also making it difficult for them to be tried until the seller is long gone.  Previous investigations have shown examples where the products have been “waste” from factories/repairers which do not work and often could not work because major components are missing.

Sale of Carpets and other Home Furnishing Products

It may seems a convenient way of getting a new carpet fitted, particularly for the elderly but complaints suggest that this is often a “recipe for disaster”.  Complaints often include people who were quoted one price only for a much higher price to be demanded once the carpet is fitted or product delivered.

CONTACT: Stuart Pudney on 01609 766405, Richard Flinton 01609 766421, Graham Venn on 01609 766408.

Note to Editors:

This type of complaint usually involves older and vulnerable people and fear/threat/intimidation are usually factors.  For that reason, many victims fail to report incidents.  When they are reported, complainants are often fearful and as a result will not agree for their identity to be revealed.  For this reason, no further information on these specific complaints is available.