News item

Merger creates largest TS approved trader scheme

A photo opportunity of the merger signing will take place at Stand B3 in the Conference Hall in Bournemouth International Centre at 1pm on Wednesday 25th June. The merger will be signed by representatives of the two regional trading standards groupings which initiated Buy With Confidence and CustomerFirst.

Customers are set to benefit after the merger of two initiatives aimed at protecting consumers against cowboy traders.

The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Institute's (TSI) Annual Conference in Bournemouth will host (on June 25) the formal merger of the Buy With Confidence and CustomerFirst trader approval schemes.

With more than 20 authorities across Southern England already running the schemes, the merger has made Buy With Confidence the largest Trading Standards Approved Trader Scheme in the country.

Business members already exceed 2000, with numbers increasing on a weekly basis.

Buy With Confidence helps consumers avoid rip-offs and cowboys by providing a list of approved traders. The scheme also recognises and supports local businesses that are proud of their customer service.

All members are independently vetted by officers from their local authority and are constantly monitored by Trading Standards to make sure their standards are not slipping.

Two more local authorities - Bournemouth Borough Council and Dorset County Council will also announce their start-up of the Buy With Confidence scheme. Dorset will be introducing the Buy With Confidence Scheme for all trade sectors, whereas Bournemouth will begin the conversion of their existing schemes for the building and motor trades into the Buy With Confidence family.

Paul Thomas, Head of Trading Standards at Devon County Council, said: 'This merger coupled with two new local authorities signing up to the scheme represents a really positive move which will improve the way traders deal with customers.

'Consumers will benefit from being able to check with Trading Standards to see which businesses are members of the scheme before purchasing goods or services, while business receive independent recognition of their customer service standards.'

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'Consumers demand the knowledge and confidence that the Buy with Confidence and other Local Authority approved schemes provide when choosing traders in this demanding economic climate.

'Along with the government-backed initiative Trustmark and the OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, consumers are now able to make more informed choices when choosing tradespeople

'I would encourage all the businesses and employees in these schemes to further enhance their ability to meet consumer and business expectations through the Institute's Fair Trading Award programme that will provide the competency and knowledge throughout the business on consumer rights and fair trading matters.'

The scheme and member authorities are also members of the Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network which is supported nationally by Trading Standards and the Office of Fair Trading.

David Fisher, director of the OFT's Trading Standards Partnership Team, said: 'Assured trader schemes like Buy with Confidence, which meet national standards and are members of the Local Authority Assured Trader Network, are valuable to local communities and provide a signpost for consumers to reputable local businesses. They assist in marginalising rogue traders, helping businesses understand consumer law and allowing consumers the benefit of raised customer service standards.'

More information on the Buy With Confidence scheme can be found on the website at Buy With Confidence

ENDS

A number of case studies from across the member authorities will be available from Buy With Confidence representatives on Wednesday 25th June at Stand B3 in the Bournemouth International Centre

Two examples include:

Mr D, from Exmouth, Devon, was cold-called by a gang of workmen who had been operating in the area. They offered to resurface his drive with asphalt for what he thought was a reasonable price and they returned a few days later to carry out the work. Before they left they collected payment of £1500 in cash and then drove away telling him they would come back later in the year to check the work. Significant problems with the work developed but, despite making repeated phone calls and sending several letters, they never returned to sort out the problems.

Mr D said: 'A scheme like Buy With Confidence sounds a great idea to me and I've learnt from my experience not to trust businesses who cold call and offer to do work.'

Mr John Gatehouse, from Mansfield, said: 'On the night of 6 November 2007, to our horror the boiler packed up leaving us without central heating or hot water. We called the only plumber we had knowledge of through a previous incident and who was recommended to us by our insurance company. This plumber was not a Buy With Confidence member and is based in Nottingham.

'He called the following day, stayed for about 45 minutes and then told us it would cost £700 minimum to repair but he would recommend a new boiler which would cost £1500. After giving my wife an invoice and receiving a cheque for £50, he left.

'We pondered what to do but it kept niggling at me that a boiler which was under five-years-old could have so much wrong with it, so I thought we would get a second opinion.

'After scouring the internet we came up with a Buy With Confidence member based here in Mansfield. On initial contact on the phone he said he was busy but when realising our predicament he said he would come the following afternoon between jobs to look at it.

'When he came he found the previous plumber had left the boiler in bits (which being situated in the loft we had no idea about) and so, understandably, couldn't test it without rebuilding first which he didn't have time for then.

'Now I know most plumbers wouldn't entertain a job in a state like that but I think he felt sorry for us and said he would come back Saturday morning but it would take a couple of hours to rebuild it and then test it to find what was wrong with it and that he charged £25 per hour.

'So when I arrived home from work Saturday I expected a cold house, a bill for £50 and a list of what was needed to repair it. I was amazed to find not only had he rebuilt it, but it was working and he was only charging £60. Apparently all that was needed was a washer, a few blobs of solder and few tweaks on a couple of nuts.

'On a scale 1-10, I rate him 20.'

Notes to Editors

All of the contacts below will be present at stand B3 during the signing.

For general information about the Buy With Confidence Scheme, please contact Nigel Snape, Chair of the Buy With Confidence Management Group (01962 833620) or Paul Thomas, Buy With Confidence Management Group Member (Office: 01392 382728, Mobile: 07816 227154).

For information about the Dorset County Council launch of Buy With Confidence, please contact Bill Jaggs, Head of Regulatory Services or Councillor David Crowhurst, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Services (Office: 01305 224923, Mobile: 07966 800300)

For information about the Bournemouth Borough Council launch of Buy With Confidence, please contact - Paul Walker, Trading Standards Manager or Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Communities on (Office: 01202 454628, Mobile: 07944 529002)

Fair Trading Award

TSI, as a professional examining and awarding body, runs a successful training scheme, the Fair Trading Award, aimed at businesses and their staff at all levels. It enables both the business and the individual to gain knowledge of consumer rights and trading standards legislation helping businesses to improve and demonstrate the desire to trade fairly driving operational and cost efficiencies.

This is supportive and complementary to membership of approved trader schemes such as the new Buy with Confidence merger and other Local Authority schemes across the UK.

The Award has been implemented by the major DIY retailer B & Q, delivering substantial benefit to their business and training 128 members. It has also been used earlier this year by Solihull Trading Standards as part of their Shipshape scheme to train 50 of their members.

TrustMark

TrustMark is the Government backed initiative, supported by the building industry and consumer protection organizations, that helps householders find reliable and trustworthy tradesmen to carry out repair and improvements to the inside and outside of their homes - from builders and plumbers to roofing specialists and landscape gardeners.

Consumer Codes Approval Scheme

This sign means that the firm displaying it is a member of a trade body with a code of practice approved by the Office of Fair Trading.

The aim of the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme is to promote and safeguard consumers' interests by helping consumers identify better businesses and to encourage businesses to raise their standards of customer service.

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists!

The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.

Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.