Scams and Unfair Trading
Have you been affected by a scam or felt unfairly treated by a trader?
- Job Training Scams
- Roof Treatments
- Counterfeit Goods
- Money Advice Scam
- How to spot a scam
- Links (Scams)
- Unfair Trading
- Links (Unfair Trading)
- Discrimination in goods and services
As the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true then it usually is. Some traders have no compunction about resorting to unfair practices, or downright deception in order to part you from your money. Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards departments see many cases of dodgy dealing. These are some of the things to look out for.
Many people finding themselves out of work look towards training to improve their chances of employment. It can be expensive but people often feel it's worth the investment - as long as they get the training they are paying for, that is. That certainly wasn't the case for a recent client at the CAB, who signed up for an HGV driving course. Contrary to what he had been promised, the course was being held in another part of the country - further than it was practical for him to travel. Despite misleading him, the company refused to refund his money.
It's always worthwhile getting feedback from other customers before you part with any money. You can ask friends or family, or check online. In this case the owner of the company had already been prosecuted for a similar scam under a previous company name.
You wouldn't be happy if you parted with your hard-earned money for a wonderful new roof treatment, only for a builder to turn up and spray your house with water. But that's basically what has happened to the many people who have been sold roof treatments that promised to 'insulate and protect', but turned out to be a basic silicon spray that offered very little benefit.
Obtaining cheap versions of popular brands might seem like a good thing, but usually counterfeit goods are substandard and often dangerous. Toys, for instance, frequently don't meet safety standards, and counterfeit alcohol can contain dangerous chemicals. To avoid getting conned, look out for misspelt labels or missing warnings. And if you're buying goods away from usual retail premises, there's a high likelihood that you're buying fakes.
There are many companies springing up who offer advice to people experiencing financial difficulties, or help to set up payment plans. Sadly, some of them are designed to prey on people who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. They may ask for fees up front and then disappear with your money. Remember free help and advice can be found at your local CAB.
Is the company genuine? Firms which don't advertise a physical address and only use PO Boxes and email may turn out to be phony.
Check the company's reputation. Ask friends and family if they've had dealings with them, or look for feedback on the internet. DCC Trusted Trader is an excellent resource for finding genuine traders.
Is the trader taking too much of an interest in your bank details? Any firm who wants this kind of information in advance should set the alarm bells ringing.
Are they asking you to pay money up front? Many traders will require a deposit from you, but be wary of fees which seem unreasonable or unnecessary. Ask who will hold the deposit. Trading Standards recommend that deposits are protected.
Are you being put under pressure to sign a contract? A trader who doesn't want to give you time to read the small print or ask advice probably has something to hide.
Sometimes it's not just con artists who engage in questionable practices. Even established traders sometimes use unfair techniques to pressure you into making a purchase. Since 2008 a number of previously common sales techniques have been illegal. These include:
Bait and switch: This is where a company will deliberately advertise a product when it knows it does not have sufficient quantities to satisfy demand. When the customer arrives at the store, the sales assistant will sell the customer a more expensive item instead.
Misleading customers about their statutory rights: Consumers have certain rights under law and it is an offence for retailers to misrepresent them. It would be illegal, for example, for a retailer to tell you that you do not have the right to return a faulty item. It is also an offence for retailers to pass off statutory rights as additional rights, under a warranty for example.
Aggressive Sales Practices: Making false claims about the limited availability of a product, making threats and simply refusing to take no for an answer are all examples of aggressive sales practices that are now outlawed.
False claims about cessation of business. You know that shop in your high street - the one that's had the closing down posters in the window for the last six years? Every town used to have one, but false claims about closing down sales are now outlawed.
If you suspect you've been scammed or have been treated unfairly by a trader, you can get help from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.
You can report your Scam and find out about others at www.actionfraud.police.uk