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News - 29 July 2006
RATs on the trail of their quarry

Rogue traders will be cornered

The City Council is launching a two-pronged strategy to weed out con merchants. The aim is to protect customers from bogus tradesmen by accreditation and policing activities.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s Trading Standards team is establishing two major new initiatives:

  • A Rapid Action Team will provide a fast, immediate response to stop bogus callers and rogue traders in their tracks
  • A Buy with Confidence scheme will provide a register of approved traders, who have been vetted by Trading Standards

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s environment committee, said: “We are making it clear that we mean action. We are determined to clampdown hard on the tricksters and unscrupulous traders, who prey particularly on older and vulnerable people.”

Rogue traders also make life unnecessarily difficult for bona-fide traders trying to make an honest living. The new schemes should help these businesses by offering them a way to set themselves apart from the cowboys.

The Buy with Confidence register will give people the reassurance of knowing they are dealing with an approved local trader who has passed stringent Trading Standards checks.

A swift response means the Rapid Action Team (affectionately known as RATs) will be able to take action while the caller is still on the premises or in the vicinity and prevent further cons being carried out. The team will also work closely with other Trading Standards officers across the South East to share information and prevent cowboys from simply switching from one area to another.

The scheme is being run in partnership with the UK Trades Confederation and, so far, members include builders, electricians, gardeners and roofers. More businesses will be added over the coming months.

K&B Roofing, run by Keith Fowler and Robert Blackman, is one of the businesses on the Buy with Confidence register. Keith said: “There are a lot of good local firms, but we hear some nightmare stories about cowboys and they give everyone a bad name.

“I’ve traded in Brighton & Hove for 25 years and this is the greatest scheme I have been involved in, you know the people in it are 100%.”

John Peerless, Head of Trading Standards at Brighton & Hove City Council, said, “The list is all about giving people the confidence of knowing they are dealing with an approved, reputable local trader.

“We know people are being conned, but we don’t know the extent of the problem – often people are too embarrassed to say anything about it. We want to change that and give them the confidence to say ‘No’ to doorstep traders, and call us if they have a problem with a trader. We will also be taking a joint approach with other authorities across the region so rogue traders can’t just cross boundaries and think they can get away with it. We are here to help.”

People concerned about callers, or work being carried out by traders, are urged to contact the Trading Standards Rapid Action Team by calling the Consumer Direct South East helpline on 08454 040506.

To check out the Buy with Confidence register visit the website or ring 01273 293340.

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