How to avoid rogue traders and industry cowboys
Encountering a rogue trader can be an alarming and potentially costly experience. If you’re looking to purchase an electric adjustable bed or riser recliner chair, knowing the tell-tale signs of a rogue trader can help keep you safe.
What is a rogue trader?
When you’re buying furniture or services for your home, you want to know that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. While the overwhelming majority of retailers are genuine, trustworthy companies, there are some less reputable traders who sell goods that are not quite as advertised.
Rogue traders range from ‘back of a van’ traders, trying to pass off fake or second-hand products as legitimate, to internet fraudsters who try to trick you into paying for goods that will never arrive. They often use aggressive sales tactics, including cold calling and time-pressured discounts. Unfortunately, rogue traders will often target those who they believe to be most susceptible to being tricked.
For mattresses, there is a common scam where a salesperson comes to your home, claiming to sell a bargain mattress. These are cheap products—sometimes even old mattresses recovered and sold as new—that are unlikely to meet UK safety and quality standards.
How to protect yourself against rogue traders
If you know how to spot a rogue trader, you’re much less likely to fall for their scam. Generally, you should be very cautious about giving over your details, including your payment details, to traders who:
- Ask you to pay in cash, bitcoin, vouchers (e.g., for iTunes) or by BACS.
These are all harder to trace, and to get your money back if something goes wrong.
- Try to sell you things from your doorstep unsolicited.
Be especially wary if they have visited before, and you asked them not to return.
- Put you under pressure to make a decision on the spot.
Be wary of any ‘special price’ offers that are time limited. Reputable companies can have sales that last a few days or weeks, but they won’t have special discount prices for placing an order at that exact minute.
- Seem too good to be true.
Be cautious of buying products from traders who claim to have a very large discount available, such as 70% or 80% off.
- Don’t have a cancellation policy.
Genuine companies will have a clear returns policy, either on their website or as a paper copy.
- Try to scare you into making a purchase.
For example, by telling you there is something wrong with your home, or maybe even your health, that you were previously unaware of. Don’t have a retail premises or showroom, and won’t tell you where theirs is. Dishonest traders are unlikely to have one, and don’t want to be traced.
- Don’t have a website, or their website is suspicious.
Legitimate companies will have a professional website. Generally, companies claiming to sell furniture or medical grade products should have a website that looks professional. Check through a few pages to make sure they contain genuine, helpful information, and aren’t just blank pages that look legitimate from the website’s homepage.
Take the time to look them up
Genuine traders will have the same price and products available tomorrow, so take some time to think if you are at all uncertain. You can use this time to look up the company independently online.
Don’t use the details the trader has given you to do this – search for the person or company’s name, in your search engine. You’ll be able to see if they have a website, reviews, and possibly if others have had problems with the trader before. Check if they are registered with Companies House (the Government body that holds publicly available records for all UK companies).
This can also help you catch out someone who is claiming to work for a large, recognised organisation, but is in fact selling counterfeit goods. If you suspect that a trader doesn’t work for the organisation they claim to, try phoning the company using the phone number available on their website and ask if they are aware of the person who has contacted you.
Remember that you are unlikely to miss out in the long run if you walk away. At worst, you can get the product or service from someone else, at another time.
Report a rogue trader when you spot one
Reporting a scam or rogue trader when you spot one helps keep everyone safe. If you’ve spotted one, here is how to complain about rogue traders:
- Contact the Citizens’ Advice consumer helpline, on 03454 04 05 06. Citizens’ Advice will pass this on to Trading Standards or the police, but be aware that they can’t help you get your money back.
- If the scam involves a bed or mattress you can report them to the National Bed Federation too, on 01756 799950 or emailing [email protected].
- If you spot a scam involving fake Adjustamatic products, contact us on 0800 689 6887.
How to find a reliable installer of adjustable beds
Finding a company that you can trust will give you peace of mind that you are getting exactly what you’ve paid for, and that you will be protected if you change your mind and would like to cancel or receive a refund. Here are a few tips for finding traders that you can trust:
Don’t give money to traders who have any of the 8 tell-tale signs
If you come across a new company you’re considering buying from, look out for the tell-tale signs of an illegitimate or unethical trader we mentioned earlier.
This means checking out their website, checking they’re registered with Companies House, and ensuring they accept payment via credit or debit card. Don’t forget to check their returns policy before making a purchase, and remember that cold callers are very likely to be rogue traders.
Get a personal recommendation
Be sceptical of endless 5-star reviews online. Everyone is different – it’s unlikely that everyone will be completely delighted with any one product. Speaking to friends and family is a good way to get genuine opinions on a trader or company if they have used them before.
Know the accreditations and quality marks to look out for
Genuine companies sell regulated products. These products meet certain safety and quality standards that help to ensure customers get what they’ve paid for. Companies that meet the required standards are allowed to put an official label on their products. There are a few of these to look out for:
The BSI Kitemark confirms a product is safe and good quality. It confirms that a product or service has been thoroughly tested and is proven to meet a recognised industry standard or need. The Kitemark is sometimes faked, but it’s easy to spot a fake:
A CE mark means that the product meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The CE mark will continue to be recognised in Great Britain until June 2023. Beware of counterfeit marks: the ‘C’ and ‘E’ are often closer together in fake CE marks.
National Bed Federation
Members of the NBF’s Approved Member Manufacturer scheme have been tested to ensure their products meet UK laws on safety, quality and how they are described to customers. This is a quality mark specifically for beds and mattresses. The NFB has two logos, that look like this (both are currently valid):
All soft furnishings have to be treated with fire-retardant chemicals and carry a label to prove that this has been done. This means if you drop an open flame, like a match, on your new chair, it won’t catch on fire.
ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation)
ISO standards give guidance for companies involved the design and manufacture of medical devices. Companies don’t have to sign up to the ISO standards, but it’s a very good sign that the retailer is selling high quality medical devices.
Get a quote
Don’t be pressured into buying a product or service on the spot. For a bespoke item or service, getting a quote from several companies will help you decide who is really offering the best value for money. If one trader is offering a ludicrously lower price, be sceptical.
Equally, don’t agree to buy anything from a trader or company who claims they can’t give you a fixed price for a bespoke service upfront – this is likely to end, at best, with unexpected costs.
Be aware of your rights
If a product is damaged, didn’t arrive, isn’t as described or is faulty, then you have a legal right to a refund. This includes counterfeit or fake goods.
You are entitled to a full refund within 30 days of paying for them. If it’s been more than 30 days, but less than six months, the seller is required to provide the real version of the product. If they can’t, then you’re entitled to a full refund up to six months after paying for the item.
Legitimate traders will let you pay by card. Paying by credit card is a particularly safe way to pay, because you can claim the money back from your card provider if something has gone wrong, for payments between £100 to £30,000. This is especially useful if the company you bought from is ignoring your calls or emails.
“It has nearly been a week since me and my wife had the Adjustamatic Heritage Classic Bed delivered and the whole process has been easy and completely stress-free.
The sales agent Dermot was a great representative for Adjustamatic, taking his time with us and giving us the space to make our own decision.
Furthermore, the two gentlemen who delivered the bed were also fantastic, leaving the bedroom spotless once they had set everything up.”Mr Brown, from Streatham (London)
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