/ Home & Energy

Have you encountered a rogue trader?

We’ve all heard stories of unscrupulous traders knocking on old people’s doors and claiming that their roof needs repairing, then making off with hundreds of pounds without having done any work.

Sadly, while researching common dodgy practices for an article for Which?, these stories seem more prevalent than I had originally thought.

Local councils and Trading Standards run different schemes to try to publicise known problems, so being part of local social media groups could help alert you to any issues in your area. But, whatever you do, don’t agree to work offered by someone who phones out of the blue or turns up unannounced.

This is the more extreme end of the rouge-trader scale. But there are a lot of less ‘shocking’ practices that can be just as costly and infuriating for the average homeowner.

Having spoken to traders, government organisations and our Which? Legal team – which often gets calls from consumers who have found themselves battling a trader – similar problems keep coming up.

Delays is one of them – either in starting the job or not finishing it on time – and work not being up to what was expected or promised. I’ve also heard of work not being completed, traders leaving jobs in unsafe situations and workers not being qualified to do what’s required in the first place.

What to do if you’ve been stung

First and foremost, talk to the trader and try to resolve the issue amicably. Make sure you get something in writing – our page on dealing with builders details how to compile your letter to them.

Citizens Advice is then a good port of call for advice on where to go next as it works with other agencies to find a resolution. Our legal team is also here to help if you need guidance on what your rights are.

Going forward, get at least three quotes and opinions, and an agreement of the work that will be carried out, including the timings and cost, in writing.

Check references by speaking to previous customers and take a look at work completed, rather than just reading online reviews. If the trader needs certain qualifications for the work, verify them rather than taking their word for it.

Your stories

We want to hear your experiences in order to shine a light on these shady dealings, and make sure consumers are armed with the information they need to avoid employing a rotten trader, as well as what to do if they’ve been affected.

Have you been caught out by a misleading trader working on your home? Have one of these scenarios happened to you or a loved one? Are there other home improvement scams that we haven’t heard about?

Comments
Dr Scott says:
20 July 2018

I get many rogue traders cold calling me on the phone. These days I go on the attack, my aim being to insult and bamboozle them so much with science and legal threats that they put the phone down on me ! i.e
1. Somebody purporting to be from BT sends me a message saying my phone is to be cut off unless I contact them. It still works.
2. I have also had asians phoning to say my broadband is in danger of problems, even though I am not with BT !
3. A Heating firm in Kent rings to say my boiler is over 10 years old and needs replacing. I spent about 20 minutes telling them my boiler has no problems, is serviced regularly, and is an efficient condensing boiler. I told them many times that I am an expert on saving energy, having written reports on it as a scientist. They took no notice and ploughed on until I insulted them enough for them to put the phone down on me.
4. I get calls from “inland revenue” telling me I am subject of a court case over non payment of tax. When I ring them to give them a hard time they don`t reply.

We need to attack these traders, make life difficult for them, and waste as much of their time as possible. I can as I am retired. The TPS and the ICO don`t seem actively to do much about nuisance phone calls even now that the laws have tightened up, so its up to us.

Dr.Scott this is part of the “Open Britain ” dogma where its left to businesses to control their own actions so that “free enterprise ” could flourish. Remember all the “Brave ” election slogans – we will free up the country and remove government restrictions on businesses by “downsizing ” the capabilities of government public facing entities and removing the public’s ability to “cause problems for big business” . Well she certainly did that and everybody voted for it , so its “chickens coming home to roost now ” . Front companies purporting to “help the public ” are nothing more than toothless tigers and are just blocking agencies from getting real action . The public have been conned magnificently and still are , nothing is going to change till election time and you are told to vote for the same people– and the worst thing ?–you do . Have to protect my shares /house-prices -of course you do .

anon says:
21 July 2018

My family gave £120 to a builder a few months ago on the understanding or promise that he would come back and do some work. The money was also to buy some materials he needed

He never did come back and kept making excuses in text messages on why he couldn’t

Eventually he stopped responding

We don’t know what to do now. Should we go to Trading Standards? Small claims court? Someone else?

DerekP says:
21 July 2018

When you say “gave”, I assume, in a legal sense, you mean “paid”, i.e. on the basis of a verbal contract to do the work.

If the builder intended to con you out of that money, then I think it’s a police matter because a crime was committed.

If there was no prior intent, and the builder’s failure to perform the work is only down to incompetence, then the small claims court could be a good way of suing the builder to get the money back.

I’m not a lawyer though…

The key word in any contract is— Time (scale) ,if the verbal contract included – builder –I will start work on such and such a time and didn’t then the contract is broken , if not its an “open-ended ” contract . Never pay upfront until at least half the work is done and only pay half till its completed to your satisfaction.

This is a case of exactly where we, the “public” or “the consumer”, should be able to report the problem directly to our local trading standards office and explain exactly what has happened. But we cannot.

anon says:
21 July 2018

Yes, paid. We had a verbal agreement that he would use the money to buy materials he said he needed for the job

but we can’t really go to the police, can we? they would say it’s wasting their time

If he will not start work after several months he is committing theft ,go to the police Anon.

You would need proof of what had happened – a witness? You should inform Trading Standards (you probably can’t do it directly as they’ll refer you to Citizens Advice) in the hope they may have information on this builder and could prosecute. Worth asking the police but in view of the sum involved I’d think it unlikely they would be of much help other than, again, to record the facts. The builder may be on their books and they may be building a case against him.

I consider myself quite savvy and always get recommendations, more than one quote and make the traders put in writing what I am getting. We found a local landscaper last summer who extended our patio at a reasonable cost, and though they were not the most professional outfit the workmanship was acceptable. My partner agreed for them to come back this May and build a brick planter down both sides of the garden, a bigger and more expensive job. They fixed the price verbally and he handed over £500 for materials, but I wasn’t worried as we ‘knew’ the guys. They started the prep work, then alleged cash flow problems and said they couldn’t afford the materials without another £500, which my partner handed over (against my better judgement). Since then all we’ve had is a string of broken promises, and the most far fetched set of excuses for not turning up I’ve ever heard. My garden has been a mess since May so we can’t use it even though it’s been a lovely summer, which is v frustrating. If I get another trader in it’ll now cost me much more than the price we’d agreed with them, as they’ve laid foundations that are not level and in the wrong place, so will need ripping up again, and having given them £1k I just don’t have the extra money. I assume my next step is to give up and either report to Trading Standards or start small claim’s court proceedings, but not sure how to go about either and I’m so busy at work I don’t have time to do the homework.

Chris says:
21 July 2018

Hello all, we engaged a roofer through the My Builder website believing all the experience shown had been verified. A price was verbally agreed and we paid some money upfront for materials only to find little or limited work carried out over a number of weeks. We spoke to Which Legal and followed their advice having fired the roofer only to then give him another chance. He carried on where he left off and did little work before stopping completely. We were left with a half completed roof and the work so far completed condemned by the company that carried out the remedial work. We then commenced a claim in the small claims court, had judgement in our favour and appointed bailiffs only to find that his business address was the accountant and no further information was divulged to carry on the debt recovery.
In short, the My Builder website creates an impression that traders are trusted, in reality they admitted that they only verify the identity of a trader, reputation is built over time but clearly allowed this rogue to rip us off legitimately, so to speak! We spoke to Trading Standards regarding what had been done and the fact our boiler vent was left in a dangerous position, their response was to say that because the roofer had not come to notice recently from other people, they were too busy to take this on. We spoke to the police who told us it was the duty of Trading Standards to start this off. Finally, we resorted to reporting the trader to Companies house as we spotted the company was a limited trader and due to non-submission of accounts was being struck off preventing us taking legal action. We blocked the strike off but once we hit a dead end with the accountants, the company was dissolved and we can do nothing further. Which legal advised we write to our MP highlighting the fact that the current trading laws totally support any rogue trader who has a little knowledge and fails in every way to protect customers, we await a further response from our MP.

It is another example of where we need properly-resourced and transparent trading standards who will engage with and act on behalf of the public. Had you considered using Which? Trusted Traders to source a roofer for the remedial work?

Chris says:
23 July 2018

Hello, yes we did and also spoke to National Federation of Roofing contractors. The contractor who fixed our roof is a trusted trader with Which and also carries out assessments for St Helens Trading Standards. Their work was excellent.

Thanks Chris. Glad to here the Which? scheme worked well for you.

Patrick Taylor says:
22 July 2018

I will mention again that in many countries builders/tradesmen have to be licensed to trade. Trading without a license means fines and possibly jail. It is the British attitude to paying cash and paying early that magnifies the problems.

The benefits of cheques to establish a transaction being created should not be dismissed as it also creates an indisputable trail.

If Which? were to campaign on the good practices fought for and gained by consumers in Australia, Netherlands and France then this would be good. However no matter what you do even in regulated countries there are always some people who do not observe the rules meant to cover them. There is little point in agonising over their subsequent problems.

I have tried to do most jobs myself, but when I have employed tradesmen they have not been paid until the work has been done to my satisfaction. The only exception was a TV repairer that charged me for replacing a circuit board that had not been replaced and had my TV for nearly 9 months before I went to the shop to recover it. Trading Standards refused to take action without other complaints, though I did recover my money by telling the trader that I had gone to TS.

Some years later I was speaking to a TV engineer who said that the company that tried to rip me off had done the same with others.

Yet another example of the need for properly-resourced trading standards. When will consumer protection become a priority?

Probably not before taxation is increased. Large profitable companies such as Amazon should be paying more. The government need not spend as much on the roll-out of fast broadband if the entertainment companies are made to contribute to the costs.

Which? Policy

EU Exit
Consumer Charter for Brexit
We want the Government to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.

The Government can do that without Brexit – one less F35B fighter, cut wastage off the MoD budget – 0.5% is all it takes – slow the smart meter roll out by a couple of months. all these would raise around £150-£200m to put Trading Standards on a better footing – and help put consumers first.

We could fine Amazon substantially for selling dangerous and illegal goods of course. And anyone else. Use the proceeds to fund the Trading Standards policing operation.

I will say that much for you malcolm , you have a big heart —suing Amazon ? good luck to you and Which . Watch out for sanctions though, with whats happening in the “secret ” US trade (one way ) deal what Amazon are doing now is nothing to what Amazon will be able to do after TM obeys Donald . This is no joke I know what the US wants (and gets ) . Would Which have corporate lawyers and QC,s that could defeat US imposed commercial control of UK business ? Do you honestly think the government is going to listen and obey Which or obey “sanction master ” Donald ? nevertheless – do you know that TM is going to refuse Donald and his US conglomerates “take-over bid ” of our commercial laws and civil laws ? Its interesting times just now – who said that – be born in interesting times ? Ah yes the Chinese whom Donald is at economic war with and our new shiny aircraft carrier is going to the China straights to frighten China , who have the Russian Shkval high speed supercavitating rocket -propelled torpedo that shoots right through even the strongest US aircraft carrier. Malcolm many US websites on foreign relations put the UK down as “subject to US control ” and thats putting it politely.

Does that mean you agree with my proposal, duncan?

Of course I do malcolm I am not a negative thinker always at “battle ready ” , its better to try than never have tried at all.

Have I encountered a rogue trader? Yes, far too many times.

The plumber who charges for unnecessary work, the kitchen fitters that leave you without a kitchen, the bathroom fitters that won’t finish the job, overcharging for parts, the roofers who leave you with more damage than they started with, offers of a new drive with council tarmac, new level floor worse than it started, not turning up, going home early, decorators who cannot put up wallpaper, shoddy workmanship, overcharging, making more work for themselves, false images of their work……..

The bottom line is most of them cannot be trusted. Even those recommended by friends or websites can turn out to be dodgy.

Patrick mentioned above that in many countries builders/tradesmen have to be licensed to trade. I 100% agree with that statement.

What we also need, is for these people to hold qualifications in their trades. Most electricians we have come across have been trustworthy.

But most of all we need a government body we can turn to for real help. A body that goes after the rogue traders for us. A body that has the authorisation to recoup money from rogue traders. A body to make traders accountable.

As things stand, when things go wrong, we can try talking to the rogue trader which will not work 99% of the time. Trading standards are a waste of space, so our only option is to take them to court, by which time the dodgy trader will have ‘ceased trading’ at least under that name, and the victim is likely to be worse off at the end of it.

It is far too easy for traders to be rogue traders.

alfa, Trading Standards’ job is to deal with rogue traders but, as you say, they are no help. And being shunted off to Citizens Advice seems of little use. The only way consumers (that is all of us) will get the protection we need and deserve is to rebuild TS with adequate funding. We don’t need a new organisation; we already have one. It needs money and people for it to do its job.

I wonder if Which? will campaign for this to happen?

Rogue traders have probably affected nearly everybody one time or another so would be a very worthy campaign.
@awhittle Alex what do you think???

I missed off garage mechanics and product repairers from my above list.

Something funny going on ‘ere………

My post ‘Restarting your computer…….’ at 10:56 is not visible.

When I posted at 10:56, my reply to malcolm ‘Rogue traders…..’ at 10:39 was not visible.

I opened this page in another screen and the 10:56 is visible but not 10:39.

@awhittle ???

OOPS, sorry, I have got the convos mixed up so ignore me. 🙄

Talking about lighting on another convo reminds me of another problem with rogue traders……..

What to do when products fail that your rogue trader has acquired for you

Chances are, you will likely have no receipts from a rogue trader. If you are lucky, you might know where products were purchased from and try the retailer, but with no receipt they are under no obligation. That leaves you going to the manufacturer who could tell you your contract is with the retailer. I successfully got a kitchen light replaced by a manufacturer when we had no receipts.

So again, the rogue trader wins with the added bonus of claiming the VAT back on your products.

The rogue trader is the responsible person as, presumably, you paid him for the goods. However, as you have found, if that fails for good reason you can approach his retailer or the manufacturer. I’m glad you had a good result this way.

mrs r was bought a watch by my son for a recent birthday with a mesh metal strap. Unfortunately the indents that locate the adjustable fastening do not extend sufficiently far to allow the strap to fit her wrist (not exceptionally slim). I approached the UK distributor direct, rather than the retailer JLP, simply to ask if there were a way to get it to fit. They said, as I suspected, there was not and the only way was to fit a different strap. They offered a choice of 7 colours and the one we chose arrived in this morning’s post, free of charge.

We often only mention failures in these Convos, and I confess to doing the same, including criticising Which? (In my defence, I do expect them to do a good job as a matter of course so take that for granted, and do compliment them when they do a particularly good job, as their recent plastic article). But nice to record positive encounters.

A good result there malcolm.

I have often had success with manufacturers after hitting a brick wall with the retailer.

Sometimes they will authorise a return, then showing the retailer the proof, they will accept the faulty product.

It’s certainly worth contacting the manufacturer if there seems to be a design fault or safety issue.

gamer says:
12 August 2018

Not sure if this is the right conversation to write in, so maybe someone could point to it?

Bought an expensive computer after seeing an advert on the computer manufacturer’s UK website, but it was bought from a UK stockist, not the manufacturer. I haven’t got the gaming performance promised in the advert, but Citizens Advice wants me to direct my complaint against the stockist, not the manufacturer

Is CA right? Should a Trading Standards complaint be done for the stockist instead of the manufacturer?

Your contract is with whoever you bought a product from, so in this case it is from the retailer (stockist). The Consumer Rights Act 2015 explains your rights. Useful information can be found here: https://www.businesscompanion.info/search-results?term=consumer%20rights%20act

gamer says:
13 August 2018

I know goods have to be fit for the purpose for which they were bought, but I bought it more on the advert from the manufacturer than from the stockist. The stockist was just copying what the manufacturer had given them to fit their product page

The stockist is actually a very well known computer retailer and I would prefer to avoid involving them if possible as I may buy more stuff from them in the next few years

They could tell me I’m not allowed to buy stuff from them anymore if I involve them

DerekP says:
13 August 2018

gamer, if your major retailer is mindful of their future business, they might not be hostile to a product return from the the basis of not delivering the manufacturer’s performance claims.

Furthermore, if they’ve unwittingly passed on and made those claims themselves, e.g. via their own sales media, then they’d have a legal obligation to either refund or repair an under-performing product.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that PC manufacturers might tweak test examples of their PCs to give the best possible benchmark scores, so real customers might not see exactly the same scores. But if you’re seeing nothing like the claimed test scores, then you have valid grounds for seeking further help.

Further to what Derek has said, if false claims have been made by the manufacturer, this can be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority: https://www.asa.org.uk They will respond to a single complaint, but what generally happens if this is upheld is that the company is told that the ad must not appear in the same form in future.

Anne Christie says:
6 July 2019

Hello
My name is Anne
On Sunday 16 June 2019 I bought a TV from a company in Poole called Trade Electronics. I checked trust pilot and they had a lot of good reviews, so I decided to go ahead with the purchase.
The only payment method they offered was BACS. My bank Santander asked me to delay the payment for 1 day. I did that and the money transferred on Monday .17 June.

The tv arrived on Wednesday 19 June without adequate packaging. It came packaged only in it’s own box with thin black cling film around about 2/3 of the box.
When the box was opened the screen was smashed.
I immediately phoned the company and was asked to send photos.
I sent the photos and shortly after I got an email from Trade Electronics admitting the tv had been damaged in transit.

I sent links to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, Consumer Contracts Regulations, Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, and businesscompanion.info.

After several emails TE finally said that they would uplift the tv from my house and return it to them at their risk and expense. They also said that when it was received a full refund would be done as quickly as possible.
A tracking number was given to me.

On Wednesday 26 July the courier DX came to collect the tv. They brought a prepaid label which had been provided by TE.

I was able to see that the tv was delivered and signed for on Thursday 27.
On Friday I emailed to ask when my refund would be processed to be told that the tv had not been received at the warehouse.

I emailed back with a copy of the courier’s site which showed the signature.

On Tuesday 2 July I sent a pre court letter to TE which was signed for on Wednesday 3 July.
On Thursday 4 July I sent a final warning about the refund. I received a reply saying the refund has been processed. As of today it is still not in my account.

They have claimed that they have 30 days to examine the tv by law.
I was able to refute that by quoting the Consumer Contracts Information Cancellation & Additional Charges Regulations 2013.

They now say that the money will be refunded on 19 July but they hope to do it sooner.
I have sent them extracts from the Consumer Rights Act 2015, I have yet to get a reply or refund.

I have since been in contact with a group of people through AV Forums who are in the same position as me. TE delay and delay and delay refunds, hoping that you will give up.
I have reported this scam to Action Fraud and been given a crime number.

I have also contacted my bank Santander who have signed up to the Reimbursement Scheme Code from 28 May, to refund victims of scams who have paid by BACS. They were able to tell me that there were no funds in TE bank account ,Tide.
I received a letter yesterday from Santander to say that they will not refund me, as I authorised the transaction.

I have raised this with Resolver and asked why they had signed up to the Scheme if they were not going to refund money I also said that all bank transfers are authorised.

This company falls under the umbrella of DC Digital Entertainments Ltd. The CEO Dominic Colombo closes down a company and opens another one.

Bob Weir says:
25 July 2019

I am sorry to say that this company is a serial offender of this kind of nonsense. They don’t care about customer rights. I would assume the only reason they only offer BACS is that credit cards are refusing to deal with them (they used to have credit card payment facility) and have shut them down. You have very little protection when dealing in cash and I ultimately had to take them to court to get my money back. The CEO has created a new limited called Ukdatatech ltd which I wouldn’t be surprised becomes the new DC Digital. Please report your incident to Bournemouth Trading standards.

Thomson Roofing, owned by Ryan Roofing acts like a Rogue Trader. He skips out after incomplete or shoddy work, cutting corners leaving expensive repairs incomplete/at risk of short life/failure. I now know of four examples of his scamming. To avoid court he will close down his company and reopen as a limited company under slightly different name. Be wary of Thomson Roofing Ltd Edinburgh, Ryan Thomson.

The company is also known as Thomson Roofing Services Ltd and advertises heavily in Edinburgh. Do not let the friendly chat and pretty adverts fool you.

Suzanne Farr says:
3 November 2019

I own a Listed House which has been heated by oil-fired boilers for the 43 years of my ownership. I decided to change to Bio-mass to become more environmentally responsible and asked a loical company advertising Renewables to provide me with a quote. We had researched which boiler masnufacturers had a good reputation. A survey was offered by Caplor Energy and the Sales Manager was shown over the entirety of the house including the large cellar which holds the boiler. He confirmed verbally that they has membership of HETAS (we would need a HETAS certificate for the flue`) and membership pf MCS.A quote was made on the basis of a list of prices for components and installation work. It was expensive as it excluded the building of the pellets silo and flue lining but we contracted with them because I wished to have a local engineer weho could attend quickly if there was a boiler problem. The company showed the MCS logo on the price list and this gave us confidence to go ahead. The work began before the second detailed survey,required by MCS rubric and which we had been promised with the heating engineer and Windhager, the manufacturer present at it., took place. The electrical engineer from Cheltenham arrived followed by the Heating Enginerr from Swindon in mid November. When testing began the radiators only reached lukewarm and 4 furthest from the boiler didn’t function at all. Our radiators were blamed then the piping.All had been in order before Caplor arrived. With a very cold house and Christmas stay with my family imminent I became highly anxious; the heating engineer tried to commission the boiler before the radiators were functioning to an acceptable heat. We had already arranged with Windhager to carry out conmissioning in January as they stipulate in their terms and conditions. I contacted HETAS but Caplor were NOT members. They offered a consultant who came in February at my expense and deemed the boiler under-powered by 40%. In the meantime Caplor had placed the balance of my payment with solucitor debt collectors so a surveyor friend advised seeking legal advice and gave me the name of a West Midland solicitors. Action was very slow .We finished up the defendents with a counterclaim After a laborious and hugely expensive three years the Hearing was held at Stoke on Trent County Court. By this time the claimant was MAINTAINING THAT THE HOUSE WAS SPLIT IN THREE WHEN HE SAW IT, AND I ONLY NEEDED HEAT FOR A MIDSECTION. My family, my solicitor and many friends living locally new this to be all lies. Unfortunately to our absolute amazement the judge chose to believe them, apparently ignoring that there were no visible or planned alterations to the house, no Listed Building Planning Application and no changes to the piping in the original estimate I have heavy costs to pay as well as for a useless`bio-mass boiler . I re- installed oil-fired heating in August 2017 for the whole house using a Worcester Bosch installer.
I have been through the bundle and we have found 2 letters, 1 addressed to me and the other a survey form sent to Thursfields both appearing to show that their arguments held and neither fitting in with correspondence before and after. I had to get up in the witness box and answer to the survey without any warning. as I had only just seen this survey for the first time. Thes letters seem likley to have been made a while after the date on them.

The District Judge seemed to have have little familiarity with MCS as a form of Renewable Customer Protection and preferred to believe the liars. I can’t afford to go to Appeal and risk more money, as I am now heavily in debt. Is there any point in going to The Police? This is not justice. and MCS has proved useless ; not what is wanted when using oil must go.