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November 12, 2012 - 15:42

The Trading Standards Institute’s (TSI) annual National Consumer Week, sponsored by the UK European Consumer Centre, is being launched Monday (12 November) by BBC TV presenter Gloria Hunniford and Consumer Minister Jo Swinson.  The loud and clear message from TSI to householders is: cold calling – don’t buy it!TSI’s strongest message yet against cold calling doorstep traders* comes as thousands of consumers’ lives continue to be blighted by doorstep crime every year.  Trading standards officers up and down the country are faced daily with the criminal offences, financial hardship, health impact and emotional fallout caused by cold calling doorstep traders who carry out unnecessary home maintenance work at grossly inflated prices – adding insult to injury by doing the work badly – or use cold calling as a cover for distraction burglary

TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “We think there is only one way consumers can really stay safe from rogues in their own homes, and that is by saying ‘no’ to cold calling doorstep traders –particularly those offering home maintenance services such as roofing, guttering, gardening and work on the driveway.

"Consumers who need work carried out on their house should never take the word of a cold caller for it and should take their time, using their local authority's approved trader scheme to find a workman.

  “With our ‘Cold Calling – Don’t Buy It’ campaign we want to raise awareness amongst particularly the more vulnerable consumers that they have every right to reject cold calling on their own doorstep – their home is their castle.

Last year, 12,000 complaints were made to the Consumer Direct helpline about uninvited doorstep selling.  And since the Citizens Advice consumer service** started some 7 months ago more than 6,500 complaints have already been received on this same problem.  These figures are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg as many will go cases will go unreported.  Some victims of doorstep crime have told trading standards officers they feel they may be forced into residential care if they admit to being unable to fend for themselves.  Criminals know this and also understand that elderly victims may not make the best witnesses.

Consumer champions Gloria Hunniford, of BBC consumer affairs programmes Rip Off Britain and Doorstep Crime 999, and the Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, creator of, have given their backing to the campaign.

Gloria Hunniford said: “I am only too glad to be wholeheartedly backing this Trading Standards Institute campaign ‘cold calling – don’t buy it’.

“The cold calling stories we investigate on BBC’s Rip Off Britain and Doorstep Crime 999 are very upsetting in the way it is often the vulnerable who are targeted, and they are left feeling frightened and often repeatedly ripped off in their own homes.

“We need to help people reclaim their doorsteps by giving them the confidence to stay no to cold callers – this is the only real way the more vulnerable consumer can truly stay safe in their home from rogues.”

Martin Lewis said:  “There’s nothing more frustrating than people knocking on your door to try to sell you things when you don’t want them to. “Yet unless we tell them not to knock, they’ve every right to.  That’s why I’m delighted to support the Trading Standards Institute's Cold Calling – Don't Buy It campaign. Further weight was added to the campaign by consumer minister Jo Swinson MP who said: “The Trading Standards Institute works hard to support those protecting consumers from rogue companies taking advantage, but there are times when vulnerable consumers find it hard to protect themselves. By the time they call Trading Standards for help it can be too late and they may have been scammed.

“It’s easy to delete spam emails, or put the phone down to telesales callers, but particularly for the elderly it can be harder to say no when confronted at your own doorstep. It is important that all consumers are aware and confident of their options, and so this is a fantastic campaign to help consumers know their rights with cold calling. 

The Government’s Insolvency Service says they are also finding bullying cold callers to be an issue.  Graham Horne, Deputy Inspector General of The Insolvency Service said: “Cold-calling crooks essentially bully people into handing over their money. They often target the most vulnerable people in our society, ripping them off right in their own homes.  
“Our investigators report that this nasty technique is featuring in more and more of their caseloads.

“Not every unsolicited call will be a scam but you should never be afraid to say ‘no, thanks’. If in doubt, you should take time to research the company and get some independent advice.”

The National Consumer Week launch event, being held at the Age UK’s London hub office Monday (12 November), will mark the start of a week in which local authority trading standards services across the UK will run events to explain the issues.

Consumers who need guidance on their consumer rights or want to report a dodgy cold caller to trading standards should call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06  – anyone feeling threatened should call the police on 999.