Council tax complaints investigation leads to arrest
Officers from Trading Standards North West Scambusters, assisted by colleagues from Cheshire West and Chester, Bury, and Stockport Trading Standards, and officers from Great Manchester Police yesterday (Monday) executed a search warrant at business premises in Bury.
Acting in response to complaints of fraud by false representation made against a company which purported to be able to obtain council tax refunds for victims - the overwhelming majority of whom are elderly and vulnerable - the operation led to the arrest of one man.
Consumers are advised that it is easy and free of charge to request a re-banding of property for the purpose of assessing council tax.
The Valuation Office, which is responsible for such assessments and has cooperated with the Trading Standards investigation, advises that in the first instance householders should contact them.
Various companies attempt to convince householders that they need to pay for a solicitor or surveyor to appeal against their council tax banding, which is not the case. Householders can challenge their council tax banding at no cost.
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB), said: "The protection of vulnerable people is a priority for Trading Standards, and I am pleased action has been taken on those who take advantage of defenceless members of society.
"Nobody should be tricked into paying for a free service which requires no legal representation. I urge the public to remain vigilant for these scams, and to watch out for the vulnerable or elderly members of their community."
Enquiries are continuing into the company concerned. Anyone concerned that they may have fallen victim to this or a similar fraud should contact the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 0845 040506.
For more information about this case please contact Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Press Office on 01244 972965 or to speak to the National Trading Standards Board regarding a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES TO EDITORS: The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
Scambusters is a NTSB funded project aimed at targeting rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing a support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central Trading Standards Authorities (CENTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5. Tri Region Scambusters (TRS), on behalf of Trading Standards South East Ltd (TSSEL), East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and London Trading Standards Association (LOTSA)
6. Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7. Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. The Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
DATE: 28 January 2014