News item

Rogue mobility companies targeting West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire Trading Standards is warning elderly residents and their carers to be on their guard against rogue mobility companies after a recent spate of complaints to the Service.
 
Trading Standards is highlighting the tactics used with consumers, which include; 
 
• Advising during an unsolicited telephone call that they want the consumer to try some cream for aches and pains (this has resulted in agreeing to a visit in which the consumer has been pressured into buying a mobility aid).
 
• Telling a consumer during a telephone call that the hospital have passed on the consumers details to the company to arrange a visit
 
• Mobility company representative calling unannounced to a blind elderly person trying to sell a mattress topper, the representative did not provide any paperwork or details of the company.
 
• Targeting other vulnerable elderly consumers – selling a mobility aid to an 85 year old woman who had memory problems and a lady with dementia.
 
• Stating that if the consumer bought an adjustable bed they would never have any aches and pains again and would be able to stop taking pain killers.
 
• Advising consumers that hospitals, doctors and nursing homes use the same beds.
 
• Stating the mobility aid is specifically made to the consumers specification (a tactic used to try to prevent cancellation)
 
• Advising that contracts can’t be cancelled when the consumer is still within the 7 day cancellation period, and using delaying tactics until the cancellation period expires and then advising the consumer cannot cancel the contract.
  Other tactics known to be used include:-
-          Advising that a health survey is being carried out
-          Advising that they are calling from social services or the hospital
 
These are all tactics used to get through the door.  Once inside the property the consumer can be subjected to hours and hours of a high pressure sales pitch for a vastly overpriced mobility aid that is usually not suitable to the consumers needs.
 
The recent complaints show that residents have paid extortionate prices for goods that can be bought at reputable mobility product shops for a fraction of the price.  The 85 year old woman with memory problems was charged £ 2000 for a mattress.
 
REMEMBER WHEN DOING BUSINESS ON YOUR DOORSTEP – YOU HAVE A 7 DAY COOLING OFF PERIOD.
 
Trading Standards is urging consumers and those who care for the elderly to please report such instances to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.  
 
Graham Hebblethwaite, Chief Officer at West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service said “We have worked hard over the past few years to eradicate rogue mobility aid businesses, and will continue to target and take enforcement action against those businesses who go out of their way to scam the most vulnerable members of our society”.
 
To complement the enforcement element and in a bid to empower and educate elderly and vulnerable residents, West Yorkshire Trading Standards has also recently launched the SAFER (Scams and Fraud Education for Residents) community protection initiative, which aims to raise awareness of these rogue activities.  Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, officers will, over the next two years, be working closely with older and vulnerable residents in the Leeds and Bradford communities, providing them with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves against rogue traders and scams, and also training front line staff who work with older adults on a daily basis to spot signs that their clients have fallen victim.  A debt advice worker will also support the project, ensuring that those who have already become victims are helped through the financial crisis that this often creates. 
 
Councillor Neil Taggart, Chair of West Yorkshire Joint Services Commitee, which oversees the work of Trading Standards, explained ‘The Big Lottery funding has enabled us to develop a community education programme to support local residents and partner agencies in being able to spot scams, frauds and doorstep criminal activity, to reduce the number of people who fall victim to such crimes.  Over the next two years we will be running community workshops to highlight practices of these activities, and I would urge older residents in Leeds and Bradford to get signed up to attend.‘
 
Notes to editors:
 
Older residents in Leeds and Bradford who are interested in attending community workshops should contact Lanson Moore or Carrie Wilson at Trading Standards on 0113 3939808 or email lmoore1@wyjs.org.uk