Winter is coming - beware the boiler scams
Days are getting shorter and, before long, householders’ thoughts will be turning to their central heating system and its boiler, and making sure both are ready to face another long winter.
Many will be considering how best to protect themselves from unexpected and large bills in relation to central heating and boiler faults.
Householders are not alone in thinking about their boilers. Recent weeks have seen the council’s trading standards team logging a significant increase in the number of enquiries regarding boiler-breakdown cover packages.
There are concerns that many providers are not insured, not lawfully registered with the appropriate regulatory bodies, and may be using engineers who are neither qualified nor competent to safely carry out gas-related work.
There is evidence of a growing number of firms being set up, often in temporary rented office locations, and calling residents offering boiler cover packages that claim to provide breakdown and repair services for a fixed annual fee.
These are often sold on a sliding scale of service – for example, gold, silver or bronze – varying in price up to £200 or more. Similar schemes have been reported offering the same sort of pay-now cover for domestic plumbing.
While many legitimate businesses – often household names – provide such cover, it can be difficult to tell from a website or phone call just who you may be dealing with.
Residents are advised to check out the business thoroughly, including how long it has traded, where it operates from and what insurance cover it has, should the business cease trading. Failure to do so could result in the disappearance of the money already spent, just when help is needed.
This will leave the victim having to spend more time and money finding a reputable business to repair pipes or heating systems.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice, said: “It’s very easy, especially if a fault develops, to panic and sign up for the first deal that’s offered.
“That could, though, turn out to be a costly mistake. Take your time – before a problem arises – consider the options and ensure you’re dealing with a reputable trader.
“That way, if things do go wrong, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that they’ll be safely put right in a timely manner.”
Notes to editor
Breakdown/repair packages are, in effect, insurance cover. Any business carrying out insurance-related activities, or those involving regulated consumer credit activities, must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Checks can be made at www.fca.org.uk/firms/systems-reporting/register/search
Anybody carrying out gas-related work must be registered with Gas Safe. Checks can be made at www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help/check_a_business_or_engineer.aspx
Businesses processing your personal data (such as your name/address/telephone number) must comply with the Data Protection Act and be registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner. Checks can be made at http://ico.org.uk/what_we_cover/register_of_data_controllers
Companies House holds details of all limited companies registered in the UK. You can check when a company was started, with details of when (and if) it has ever filed any returns. Go to http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk//wcframe?name=accessCompanyInfo
Similar free searches on directors and companies are available on other websites.
Companies House does not vet or approve any company that is registered, and it should not be assumed that the fact that a company is a limited company offers any specific protection should things go wrong.
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DATE: 9 September 2014