Public advised on landscape accreditation as rogue-trader complaints soar to 4,000

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has received a record 4,000 complaints about rogue traders - up 18% on 2008 - which cost householders £8m. The most common complaints relate to driveways, roofing and cavity wall insulation.

Essex-based Oak View Landscapes owner Paul Downer appeared on the BBC to talk about the issue. "It's about not accepting cold-calling," he said.

"If you wanted a plumber you'd look for Corgi-registered; for landscapers you should look for BALI or APL [Association of Professional Landscapers] registration and for driveways, Marshalls approved. The contractor will be vetted and fit for purpose."

The OFT is now launching Your Doorstep, Your Decision to help consumers avoid dodgy landscapers. The campaign advises householders that if they pay £35 or more for a service and sign a contract on the doorstep, traders legally must say they have seven days in which to cancel. Other advice includes not handing over a cash deposit, shopping around and getting a second opinion before letting work begin.

Downer agreed with TV expert Mitch Westwood (HW, 6 November) that the recession had caused the upsurge: "People are trying to make a quick buck. We want to raise the standards and profile of the landscaping industry. In a recession, people who think they might get an inferior job done would rather spend nothing than get ripped off."

- At last week's All-Party Parliamentary Gardening & Horticulture Group meeting with Defra secretary Hilary Benn, BALI director Sandra Loton-Jones said the landscape industry needs elevating in priority status within Lantra, especially in regions where the industry is often omitted from funding.

OFT FIGURES

Amounts lost to rogue traders per customer

  • London £1,198
  • North £774
  • East £694
  • Wales £571
  • South £303
  • Midlands £260
  • Scotland £165

 

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