/ Money

Have you been cold called about ‘home appliance insurance’?

Ever received unexpected calls telling you that cover for your washing machine, oven, dishwasher or other home appliance cover is due for renewal?

Update 26/04/2021

Which? News: Combating the ‘appliance cover’ con

Home appliance insurance call warning

We’re looking to hear from anyone who’s been cold called and offered ‘home appliance insurance’.

Maybe you’ve given away your payment details over the phone, thinking the caller was from your existing insurance company, but later found out it was someone else?

Unfortunately this is a scam that seems to be plaguing lots of you at the moment, and is particularly targeting the elderly.

While there are legitimate insurers who will cover your household appliances if they breakdown, we’ve been investigating reports that some are fraudulently taking people’s money.

Our Scam Watch reporter Faye Lipson also looked into these calls a couple of years ago, but our inbox has recently received a huge surge in reports.

Misleading and aggressive sales tactics

We’ve been told about various ways these companies are pressuring and misleading people into handing over their bank details.

Most commonly, they’ll pretend you already have a policy with them and offer to renew it for a cheaper price. Some people who do have appliance warranties are often caught out by this.

They’ll then sign you up for pricey monthly direct debits for services that probably don’t even exist.

Others just go straight in for the hard sell, often calling dozens of times a day, offering increasingly ‘better’ deals.

Most people probably don’t even need appliance breakdown cover, as many common appliance issues are covered by home contents insurance.

Shockingly, some callers even claim you owe hundreds of pounds for a policy you apparently signed up for years ago, but never paid for.

And they’ve been known to call back several times a day, threatening legal action and visits from debt collectors if you refuse to pay up.

But the threats are hollow. These companies have absolutely no right to take money from you. The calls are best ignored and reported.

Tell us your story

We want more to be done to stop these scammers being able to freely contact vulnerable people.

What to do if you’re worried you’ve given your bank details to a scammer

We’re looking to gather as many stories together as possible from people who’ve been affected to support this.

Are you regularly pestered by cold callers from these companies? Have you been persuaded to hand over your payment details? Did you get your money back?

It would be really useful to hear about your experiences for our research – just tell us what happened to you in the comments section below.

If you’d rather contact us anonymously, you can can also get in touch at scamwatch@which.co.uk.

Comments

RECEIVED this morning by telephone male voice, very gruff voice informing my wife that they are going to suspend, YOUR NATIONAL INSURANCE NUMBER. wife hung up and pressed the red block button on phone but the number used was withheld,
08-30 17th May 2021

I just received a call this afternoon from Domestic something (maybe Domestic Insurance Services) about my recently expired washing machine warranty. I seem to be receiving calls of this type every couple of months. My washing machine is new & still under warranty, so as usual I just played along and asked which washing machine they were calling about; told her we have two. They incorrectly guessed at Bosch so I just let her carry on with her spiel about all the benefits and terms, etc. The strong implication was that I was simply renewing a warranty that I had previously had with them. And at a much reduced price since I don’t make many claims! It was only when I was asked to provide my card details that I asked whether they thought whether, with a little effort, they might be able to find a job that did not involve preying on the insecurities of vulnerable individuals. The caller seemed slightly irritated and went off on a short rant before hanging up on me.

I was ill waiting for an ambulance when this company called saying that there was a problem with the card payment from the day before. It even sounded the same voice from the previous day. Normally I take things like this seriously but with not being well I stupidly gave my number to him. He said he would send the documents. Needless to say they never arrived. I’m out of pocket and been kicking myself ever since. Please don’t fall for it.

Pauline Austen says:
20 May 2021

I have had these nuisance calls for years,I just ask them if their mothers would be proud of them robbing and stealing off of decent English people!

I am of the opinion that the Authorities have been negligent in their duty to tackle these rogue Companies. Their conduct is fraudulent. Calling a consumer and claiming to be a reputable company or advising consumers they have appliance cover (when the consumer does not) which is due for renewal is false representation and therefore an act of fraud. A large number of these rogue companies are operated by the same individuals or group of individuals, who have been engaging in this conduct for many years. They incorporate and dissolve Limited Companies regularly to avoid detection and yet Companies House lists the Directors so I see no reason why the Authorities would have any problem investigating the individuals involved. I first reported my concerns over three years ago to Action Fraud, Trading Standards, ICO and the FCA, and yet the same individuals continue to engage in this fraudulent conduct. I find it shocking that the individuals involved have not had criminal charges brought against them and because there is no consequence to their actions, this unlawful conduct continues while causing significant harm to consumers.

I 100% agree with you Wingman.

There must be enough evidence on these convos to bring fraudsters to justice especially as they are operating in this country.

I would like to see Which? collate this evidence and use it to help stop this fraud. Also close the loophole that allows them to be called service agreements instead of insurance so they have to be registered.

Unfortunately these comments are hearsay and most of them likely grossly exaggerated. To be suitable to be used as evidence it’ll need to be 100% factual and corroborated by call recordings which no half intelligent fraudster will leave lying around for the authorities to commandeer.

Really good point Alfa. I have been attempting to pursue the FCA regarding this with no success. In principal, I guess it’s perfectly acceptable to provide a ‘service agreement’ on the basis the company continues to trade and will fulfill the agreement for the full term. But many forums suggest consumers paid in full for a 3 year service agreement, but the company voluntarily dissolved after a year or two. In circumstances where these companies accept monthly payments, as I see it they are effectively providing a line of credit to the consumer and I would therefore assume they should have a ‘Consumer Credit Licence’, but I have found no evidence of any of these companies having a Consumer Credit Licence. If consumers are given the option to pay £200.00 upfront for 3 years or £6.00 per month for 36 months, then I firmly believe the consumer is being provided with a line of credit. To my knowledge any business accepting monthly payments of this nature should have a Consumer Credit Licence. I have raised this with the FCA, but they seem unable to provide a definitive answer and although they agreed to contact me to clarify, they have failed to do so.

Michelle says:
20 May 2021

Hello my mum has become a victim of this scam this week and unfortunately set up a DD over the phone and they took £190. She contacted Santander and they’re going to block anymore DD’s from this company but I’m worried they’ll try and take a DD for another company name as they have her bank details, anyone advise? Also who do I report this to? Many thanks Michelle

Hello Michelle – It would be worth mentioning your concerns to Santander. Which? has useful advice here: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/i-ve-been-defrauded-from-a-standing-order-or-direct-debit-aq7YG0v1pn80

Sorry to hear about your situation Michelle. A 14 day cooling off period typically applies for agreements of this type, whereby you have a right to cancel within 14 days and receive a full refund. In the first instance call the company to advise you wish to cancel. They have no right to deduct any amount within the 14 day cooling off period as a cancellation fee and you are entitled to the full £190.00 paid. If it’s a rogue company who don’t answer the phone and you have their email, address or website information, send an email to cancel the agreement. If you don’t receive a reply within 24 hours, send a letter to the address shown on their website (retain a postal receipt or better still send a letter by Recorded Delivery as evidence a letter was sent). Keep a record of any emails or letters. Reputable companies will happily cancel an agreement within the 14 day cooling off period and issue a full refund. If it’s a rogue company that did not provide your Mother with their full business name and contact details and you have not received any documents in the post, advise the Bank immediately. I am sure the Bank will investigate and attempt to recover the amount paid. Raise your concerns with the Bank regarding any new Direct Debit requests that may appear on your Mothers account, I am sure the Bank can put something in place to prevent this.

Answering a call for an elderly friend, an aggressive male claimed a final payment was due for a domestic appliance cover policy, threatened if credit card details were not provided they would take court action. They have been calling several times a day, always on mobile numbers. No such policy exists according to my elderly friend. This is evil fraud, and I reported to Action Fraud.

Paula a says:
21 May 2021

I’ve been getting cold calls about white goods same lady though. She didn’t give a company for insurance just wanted my card number, she said from Halifax bank and alzo new my security word, she told me. Very scary i put thd phone down.

The Authorities need to get a grip on this and fast. The Director of UK Service Plan Limited has incorporated around 16 companies over the last 12 years, of which 14 of these companies are now dissolved. A large proportion of these companies suffered compulsory striking off actions by Companies House. I would certainly have no confidence purchasing a home appliance service plan from a company who’s Director has a track record such as this.

Company Directors have legal duties in accordance with the Companies Act, so if Companies House are issuing compulsory striking off actions against these companies, then surely the Director/s are not fulfilling their statutory duties in accordance with the Companies Act. This being the case, it leaves me perplexed as to why the same individuals are allowed to incorporate further companies.

These individuals do not treat the incorporation of a Limited company with any importance, they simply do so to provide their companies with some credibility, but also to minimise the risk of any action being taken against them personally. The incorporation and dissolution of so many companies by the same individuals over a short period of time is nothing more than an abuse of the Companies Act.

Wingman – I entirely agree with you. This is an area where I am hoping that Which? will be able to use its consumer power and influence with government to improve enforcement of companies legislation to stop abuses like this. The Competition & Markets Authority ought to be tackling the issue as well because false trading upsets the operation of a free market and undermines consumer confidence.

John, your assessment of the situation is spot on. It seems no one wants to take ownership of the problem or be held accountable. I have spoken with Companies House on several occasions to raise my concerns, but their response is “we do not exist to ‘Police’ Company incorporations, we simply exist to keep a record of Company incorporations”. It’s quite simply outrageous.

Mary says:
26 May 2021

We have had numerous calls daily Re- Amazon saying I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on my debit card with them or my Amazon prime free period is running out and I should press 1 to stop it or continue. All scams of course. Then there’s the TV insurance and the washing machine insurance. There’s the computer virus and BT saying our broadband has been compromised. They often ring more than once. We don’t listen to an of those calls just put the phone down.

Call today from “Homecare” about washing machine insurance renewal, (not with whom our warranties lie) 02034601900. Clearly a scam.

Richard Thomas says:
27 May 2021

Obviously a scam but I like wasting their time so played along – Contacted by “Domestic Appliances warranty department” through a proxied London number – claiming they supply the manufacturer 1st year warranty on the appliance which is about to expire, questioned them on why they did that as the consumer laws in the UK clearly state the supplier is responsible for the first 12 months not the manufacturer. Further challenged them seeing as they “represent” the manufacturer to tell me what make of freezer I have and when I purchased it, they said the represent the “Hot point group” whether the separation of words was deliberate or not I’m not sure but they proceeded to list pretty much every domestic appliance manufacturer as a subsidiary of this mystery “group” so they “just know you have one of those makes”, continued to challenge them on purchase date, surely if they were the original warranty supplier and that has now expired they would of course know, they proceeded with wild stabs in the dark, non where the expected multiples of 12 months close to before that date they called… (really!… that must be scamming 101 stuff), they hung up when I kept saying no that’s not right….

Just an observation, but the only contributors who tell us that they like to play the ‘waste their time’ game with scammers are male, and they always seem very pleased with themselves. Perhaps a psychoanalyst could explore this further.

See also the recent post from “Margaret McGiffern”?

Thanks, Derek. Margaret’s posts crossed with mine and I realised that my theory was under challenge. However, Margaret explained in one comment that she had a quasi-professional interest in fraud prevention and anti-fraud protection so I assume she needs to understand scammers’ behaviour and keep up-to-date with their tactics.

As long as you are sufficiently disciplined to avoid giving away any information, engaging with scammers can encourage you to learn more about scams. You are more likely to look for further information and discuss it with friends. I fondly remember a protracted discussion with a scammer who became angry and accused me of wasting his time.

Richard Thomas says:
28 May 2021

I don’t think I need any kind of analysis, I waste their time purely to reduce the numbers of successes these pond scum attain, admittedly a minimal impact but better than doing nothing at all.

I’ve normally got too many other things to do than waste time talking to scammers. The exception has been those asking about my recent car accident which, after a few gory details, I explain was fatal. I haven’t had that one for a long time now.

I got my “local energy” scammer this morning. I recognised his voice so quickly cut in before he said his name and said Hello Matthew. He went silent and the call ended.😁

I like wasting their time sometimes.

The ‘few simple questions’. I keep asking them who the information is for and the names of the companies alternated with’ I am never going to tell you so why do you keep ringing me?’ The same person doesn’t seem to know she is talking to me each time and keeps trying to follow her script.

Other times I get them spell out their names and who they work for. Takes ages when they have to repeat it until I understand what they are saying. 😈 They usually get fed up and end the call.

They do tend to get a bit flummoxed if you can get them off-script.

I spent much more time at home during the lockdown and was shocked how my day was full of rogue phone calls. Should I keep them in conversation to reduce the number of calls they could make?

I would not want to waste my time engaging with people without conscience, since you only feed their solipsism.

That’s my view as well, Beryl.

I don’t really care how other people justify their time talking to criminals but I noticed it was nearly always men who did it and they seemed to be so self-satisfied about it.

I wonder what it really achieves. I think it just says more about these people’s lives and how bored and lonely they must truly be.

I would like to think that talking to the occasional scammer (I don’t indulge in this regularly) might be the reason I rarely receive scam calls these days, other than automated messages. It would be nice to think that we can be deleted from a list of numbers worth calling, though that is probably wishful thinking.

Welcome back Reginald. It’s been a while since you last posted.

I must admit it feels like resistance is futile, despondency is setting in. I’ve disconnected my landline now.

Miner’s currently disconnected too. In the past I have spent some time going through the motions with scam callers, but only when I have had nothing better to do.

I think there may be some evidence that wasting their time reduces the frequency of subsequent calls.

Engaging with them also helps me to gain knowledge of the scams and this can be shared to help protect others.

I never give out my landline number, so I expect any landline call to be a scam.

Phone call this morning on our landline from a company trying to sound like – domestic and general.
Number was 02033322964. Offering us discount as we hadn’t claimed in six months. Two of our policies are less than six months old and the other we had a recent claim for. They had my husbands details but the policies we have are in my name. We hung up when they said they would pass us to their accounts department. They kept calling back numerous times – we didn’t answer. I then blocked the number .

Got a call this evening. Telling me I had cover with them lasting 3years and that my renewal is to be discounted. They gave 8 numbers saying they were my card number and said my bank had sent a new card and they needed the new expiry date (I don’t know if the card number was correct or not). I was unsure if it was a scam at first although I didn’t think I had any cover. They knew my name and address. He became a bit forceful as the conversation went on and when I asked questions he tried to get back onto the spiel he’d given previously. Once I was sure it was a scam I hung up

Lesley – As soon as any one asks for such critical personal information you can be sure it is a fraud attempt.

Since the fraudster might have you current card number I think it would be advisable to request a new card even if you have recently received one.

John says:
3 June 2021

Out odf the blue, I was called by a pleasant-sounding female. She had a foreign accent but very good English. She told me my Warranty was about to run out but that she would renew it at a discount because I had made no claims.
When I asked, she said it was for Washing machine, Fridge-freezer and Cooker.
I am reasonably confident that I do not have a ‘free-standing’ Policy for appliances.
It seems to me that she played on the fact that she could tell me some details with confidence (name, address, postcode etc – but these are not secret).
She offered to renew or up-date (I can’t recall now the exact words) my Policy for only £219 instead of £319.
All she wanted was my Bank Sort Code and Account number.
When I said that I was not confident about giving these out to a cold caller (She had said her company was “Domestic Insurance”) she became more forceful, saying, “Why? What is the worst that can happen? It is a Direct Debit. It requires your permission.”
She said that she was not asking me for my Card number or its expiry date and would advise me against giving those out, but she was very insistent that I give her the Bank sort code and account number.
I refused.
She again pressed me: “Why? What is the worst that could happen? I am on your side.”
Over time, (I had to answer the door, so said I would ring her back) she gave me a portable ‘phone number and a Brighton area one.
I may ring back but may also try to find a company called “Domestic Insurance” tomorrow or Monday and see if they i) exist and ii) have a customer service number.

John – Why bother to call back? It’s a scam attempt to get hold of your bank account details. You would not only lose the £219 but also see your account emptied.

If you really want appliance cover, do it securely online with a reputable company or request the paper forms and do it by correspondence.

Domestic & General Insurance is the major provider of appliance cover and, so far as I know, is fully authorised and compliant. but there are others. I expect the people who contacted you were trying to fool you into thinking it was D&G on the line.

Hi John, I am collating a database of numbers and company names and have been forwarding the information obtained to Trading Standards. The name Domestic Insurance appears on my list regularly, although these companies rarely provide their full business name, making it difficult to trace them. They tend to abbreviate their name or miss out certain parts of the name, so pinpointing exactly who called you will be difficult. However, the numbers they gave you may match those on my database and if so this would be of interest to Trading Standards. Would you be kind enough to post the numbers they provided. ps. I would advise not calling them back as it may lead to other calls from either them or associated companies

I tried to get Trading Standards to take action over an example of a visibly dangerous electrical product I saw online. I learned that unless I bought the product they would not take action.

I wish you luck Wingman. If you do have success, please let us know.

Wavechange, progress is being made, albeit slowly. I’m wondering if a petition handed to Downing Street might just get the attention of those in power and move this along. Trading Standards are under resourced, as are the Police, but if a petition is filed the Government cannot ignore it and would have to at the very least give it consideration. The scale of these scams is huge and I firmly believe there should be a task force in place to combat the conduct of these fraudsters. I wonder if Which? Could assist with this?

Some of us here have been banging on about the need to restore funding for Trading Standards, Wingman. Which? has often reported problems to TS, seemingly without success. I don’t know if it is considered to political for Which? to push the government for action.

I’ve signed many petitions about consumer concerns but often they receive little support, presumably because most people cannot relate to the problem. It would be a huge help to get some TV coverage of the problem.

I have asked Which? a number of times about campaigning to restore Trading Standards to do its job properly of protecting consumers. It needs money. They have never, to my recollection, commented.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, are Which? interested in pushing to get TS properly resourced?

Wavechange, I agree that media coverage is extremely helpful for consumers and several of these Appliance scams featured on Rip Off Britain at the end of 2020. The programme featured one of the companies I had been researching and shortly after that the company filed to dissolve (speaks volumes). However, the Director of that company then incorporated a further company at Companies House and is engaging in the same conduct. Although the media coverage is informative for consumers, it does not lead to investigations or convictions and that is what needed. Unless the Authorities bring criminal charges against those involved, nothing will change.

Until the market leader D&G actually becomes fully regulated for service plans and doesn’t just pretend to (accidental damage only) it will continue to be easy for companies to say they don’t require FCA regulation. D&G created this mess.

The following Which? news item gives additional detail on the murky world of appliance cover –
https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/10/combating-the-appliance-cover-con/

From this article: “D&G confirmed that it does not make unsolicited calls and only calls customers regarding renewals if they pay by cheque.”

I bought a freezer in 2020 and registered it with the manufacturer so that I could be informed in the case of a recall. Despite declining the offer of an extended warranty when I purchased the freezer my details were passed on to D&G and I received an unsolicited marketing call, pushing me to purchase an extended warranty. This was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

I would be interested to know if others are receiving unsolicited calls from D&G.

As Which? says in this article, extended warranties are generally poor value for money: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/12/extended-warranties-are-poor-value-says-which-274261/

The article in John’s link mentions surveys.

I keep getting calls from 2 ‘companies’ calling themselves Preferential or Beneficial. Both want to ask me ‘just a few simple questions’.

We don’t get to the actual questions because I won’t confirm any details and they won’t proceed until I do.

But I did manage to get out of one of them they would be asking about appliances.

I believe it is legal to cold call for surveys which might explain how these scammers know so much about people and their appliances.

The article also mentions Which? were handing over their findings to the ICO and Trading Standards. Why are they not handed to the police? This is fraud, the scammers are in this country, there are many victims here and it should be possible to trace where the money went.

I didn’t get a call from D&G or any other appliance cover after buying a Fridge Freezer from Curry’s in December 2019. Which? are insinuating Curry’s are behind the scams as 3 in 10 people purchased from them, but that is hardly surprising when they are one of the main places to buy appliances these days.

Yes, market research calls are legal, Alfa:
“On the whole, the TPS is very effective, and reputable organisations and businesses take it very seriously because it’s a legal requirement that companies do not make calls to numbers that are registered. But some still flout these rules. And the TPS only applies to UK-based companies making unsolicited sales and marketing calls – it doesn’t apply to market research calls, calls from companies where you have ‘opted in’ or calls from companies based abroad.”
Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cordless-phones/article/top-tips-to-stop-cold-calls-aF83J4g4Hzpq – Which?

It became common for marketing calls to be presented as market research and now that scams are so common the chances of anyone getting information from me are zero. If companies or other organisations offered an opportunity to provide feedback by giving a phone number on their website I would be happy to participate.

I have never had any calls about extended warranties form Currys and they have not passed my details to D&G.

In a strange way I suppose that those companies that have annoyed me with unsolicited marketing and market research calls over the years have helped make me wary of scam calls.

Agreed Alfa, I am also of the opinion that all information relating to these Companies should be handed to the Police. This needs a more robust response from the Authorities. If someone was to call at my home collecting for a charity and using a fake ID to commit fraud, if I realised it was a doorstep fraudster and call 999, the Police would arrive in no time to make an arrest. But if I receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be a reputable appliance warranty company and asking for my bank details to renew ( which is misrepresentation and an act of fraud), it seems the Authorities are reluctant to take any action. I find this unacceptable and the Authorities need to do more.

Richard Thomas says:
4 June 2021

As my last post resulted in calls for me to receive psychotherapy I’ll provide the minimum of details in a hope that it helps someone:
Claimed Company Name: KAC Domestic
Claimed to be offering: Extended warranty cover on domestic appliances
Calling from: 01931 603018 (Cumbria Area)

Which PLEASE investigate this type of fraud. I discovered last year that through cold calling and signing up to multiple ‘insurances’ my stepmother had lost several thousand pounds. Now, a change of bank account later, a cold call in April has resulted in several hundred pounds being taken which as least we have stopped now, with the support of the bank.
These companies prey on people who may not always remember details, or forget what is the safe practice. After giving card details to one company, 3 other similar companies have taken money out within the space of 6 weeks, so obviously card details have been shared. Names of these companies are Domestics serv; Coverteam direct; Coverappliance co; and Household Appliance and these have all been blocked by the bank now, as has the card involved. I can’t even find two of them online to be able to complain, let alone see if they ever would repair anything…!!
And this shows the loophole which we discovered last year – to be categorised as fraud, it has to be proved that they did not offer the advertised service. If it is not possible to even contact them due to them giving false phone numbers, and not respond to emails or letters – me that means they don’t offer the advertised service, because if you needed it, you would not be able to contact them. But this is not recognised by the banks as within the criteria of fraud. Definitely an aspect of this that needs looking at.
Also I see down the thread is the fact that these companies are registered at companies house, often relatively recently, and there seems to be no regulation…… the same company / people seem to rebrand and carry on.
I acknowledge that there are learning points for our family situation which we have to work on. We know that the world is different now and a sector of society who find it hard to cope with the technology and complexity are being exploited and we need to do something about it. It was helpful to read the comments of others but at the same time depressing that this problem seems to be getting worse. WHICH please contact me if you want any information, evidence, letters from different companies with similar format and the same password etc etc.