The menace of rogue traders has become such a fixture in our lives there is now an annual day dedicated to warning people about it and how to avoid their scams.
Office of Fair Trading research shows that over the years, nearly three million people have fallen victim to rogue doorstep traders and while people of all ages have been victims losing an average of £600 each, the oldest were the hardest hit with those over 55 losing almost £1,100 on average.
If there is anything positive in all this, it is that doorstep rogue traders tend to be more active in the summer, between April and September. Most complaints are about contractors offering tarmacing and paving services (25%), roofing repairs (20%) and insulation work (11%) and since this is the time of year when any new roofing or insulation problems might emerge, there’s still the possibility of falling prey to a doorstep rogue trader as autumn comes in.
While canvassing on the doorstep in not illegal and there are many legitimate businesses selling to people in the home, rogue doorstep trading is an ongoing problem. It might be tempting to agree to attractive prices being offered on the doorstep but the Office of Fair Trading advice is to think twice, a sentiment echoed by Darren Ross and Gavin Esslemont of TradesAdvisor, an Aberdeen-based website aimed at putting local reputable tradesmen in touch with the people who need them.
The concept was born after quantity surveyor Gavin Esslemont struggled to find reputable tradespeople to undertake a project on his home. “There are many excellent tradespeople around but I found I was relying more and more on recommendations from friends and colleagues.
“So transferring these word-of-mouth recommendations into a local trade-specialist website database appeared to be the next logical step,” he said.
TradesAdvisor offers and maintains an interactive system populated by tradespeople and consumers and it gives the tradespeople the opportunity to receive automated referrals and an instant online web presence, whilst providing consumers the opportunity to post their trade requirements and leave feedback on tradesmen, which benefits other users of the site.
“The fact that companies are continually monitored by their customers gives users peace of mind that they are dealing with tradespeople who value their reputation and are at the top of their game,” Gavin said.
“TradesAdvisor is growing to be a valuable tool for local tradespeople in Aberdeen City and Shire that are new to the market and others that are looking to expand their businesses. The automated referral system provides the connection between a consumer looking for a tradesperson and a tradesperson looking for new business. It is already saving people lots of time calling around for quotes. It also provides an effective platform for local businesses to promote their products and services.“
Mike Paton, director of Aberdeen-based joinery firm Westdyke Joinery added: “Tradesadvisor not only gives the North-East access to quality tradespeople, but it also gives us quality leads for jobs. We regularly price for jobs posted on TradesAdvisor and we see it as a great way of promoting our services.”
The first piece of advice Consumer Direct offers people considering home maintenance of improvement projects is to ask friends and neighbours for recommendations or to look for traders who belong to trade associations approved by the Government-endorsed Trustmark scheme.
So word of mouth endorsement is seen as vital in choosing a tradesperson and that’s exactly what TradesAdvisor offers, online, whilst connecting consumers with trade requirements with exactly the right tradesperson.
There’s something very reassuring about using a website where you know that every tradesperson registered is prepared for clients to post comments about the standard of their work.
On the other hand, Michele Shambrook from the Office of Fair Trading said: “Hasty decisions made on the doorstep can sometimes result in agreeing to work that isn’t necessary, that turns out to be more expensive than quoted or that’s carried out to a poor standard if it’s done at all.
“We want people to recognise the warning signs, and to feel confident enough to take appropriate precautions and say no. Remember, it is your doorstep, your decision.”
Logging on to www.tradesadvisor in the comfort of your home and specifying exactly what you want done is a much better and safer option than waiting for a stranger to tell you what they think your home needs.