Council urges vigilance over paving contracts

South Gloucestershire trading standards is urging local residents to be very careful signing home improvement contracts when dealing with doorstep salespeople.

Several block paving businesses which operate in the region are suspected to be routinely back-dating contracts when they are signed by customers. This has the effect of denying them their legal entitlement to a seven-day cooling off period, within which they can back out of the agreement with no consequences.

The tactic is known to be followed up by workmen attending at the customer’s property, usually when they are not at home, and starting to dig up the driveway. When the customer complains, the business may refer them to the contract which makes it look as if it was signed over a month ago.

It is a criminal offence for doorstep traders not to give customers a written notice of their right to cancel the agreement within seven days of signing it, but this may be waived by the customer only if they sign to say that work can start immediately. Most block paving businesses give such written notice, but some use the tactic of writing an earlier date on the contract so that they can effectively start work immediately and it looks as if the customer has already had their seven day cooling off period.

Anyone entering into such an agreement is recommended to check any date that is written on the agreement straight away and make the salesperson correct it if an earlier date is written on there. If they feel that they have been duped by this method and the work has started within the seven days without their consent, residents should report the business to trading standards immediately.

Cllr Heather Goddard, executive member for communities, said: “Whilst most companies conduct their business in a legitimate manner, a minority resort to these illegal tactics to intimidate customers into having work done against their will. If this happens, I urge residents to report the matter to the council’s trading standards team.”

Mark Pullin, trading standards and licensing manager says: “We are very concerned about the numbers of residents who have recently been duped in this manner. This is a criminal offence and we will deal with any reported incidents.”

Anyone who feels they have been the victim of this tactic or who has not been given written notice of their cooling off rights by a doorstep trader is urged to report it to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

Source: South Gloucestershire Council

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