062 GGP 1213

GGP December 2013

TrustMark 62 December 2013 Get tough on rogue traders Rogue traders are a serious issue in the UK costing consumers billions of pounds per year and causing distress and alarm to many people. TrustMark’s Stuart Carter says their activities are unacceptable and have no place in today’s society, particularly when it comes to ripping off the vulnerable and putting safety at risk. Consumers need protecting from rogues and by providing increased penalties that can be more easily imposed, whether that be through harsher fines and jail terms, it should deter them from committing such crimes in the future. Tougher sentencing is critical for those who defraud and lie to consumers so the recent consultation on fraud, bribery and money laundering by the Sentencing Council is a positive step in the right direction. TrustMark was created eight years ago to tackle the menace of rogue and cowboy tradesmen so we want to see a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing and a revised framework that will affect rogue traders who operate on the black market and win business by fraudulently using registration marks. The Sentencing Council’s new proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to those who give tens of thousands of law-abiding tradesmen a bad name and tarnish their reputation. These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off so these new guidelines are tougher on those who commit multiple offences, especially when the victims are particularly vulnerable. The consultation also refers to having a single fraud guideline for cases of confidence fraud and TrustMark believes this will help governmentbacked schemes, such as TrustMark, and industry bodies in the construction industry effectively communicate the penalties for rogue traders who defraud householders. Commonly, rogue traders who misuse their logos and charge disproportionate fees for work, which is often not carried out, are often the same firms or traders who commit other crimes, such as tax evasion. This is particularly concerning if they are misusing registration marks and falsifying certificates of competence to fraudulently win work. This can often involve electricity, gas and other potentially lethal substances such as asbestos which puts consumers at further risk. We are, therefore, calling on the Sentencing Council to consider even tougher penalties, particularly for the vulnerable who are less able to defend themselves. These are important proposals for the construction industry. The government’s recent Industrial Strategy for Construction stated that over 70,000 complaints were made by householders against tradespeople between March 2010 and March 2011 and highlighted the need for the industry to clean up its reputation with the householder. TrustMark is helping achieve this by working with the government, the industry and consumer advice groups to boost customers’ confidence in the many great tradesmen in the sector. We have many years experience of dealing with rogue traders who have committed offences in the RMI sector and we have taken action against almost 100 firms so far this year which have been found to be misusing the TrustMark logo. We regularly liaise with Trading Standards and the police when rogue traders come to light and we receive feedback from our scheme operators who know if a trader has fraudulently misused a logo to do business. Following successful legal action against such firms and in order to warn other homeowners the business names are published on TrustMark’s ‘Fakes and Forgeries’ website page. Increasing consumer protection To increase protection for consumers, TrustMark has recently introduced a new logo download system for all its 14,500 registered firms in order to reduce the risk of logo abuse and fraudulent misrepresentation. Every firm will now be required to use their personalised TrustMark logo in all of their marketing and website activity, detailing the trades that they have been inspected and licensed for by TrustMark, and this will provide clarity and assurance for the consumer. Our new TrustMark logo will provide a more transparent environment of trust for consumers as they will now be able to immediately see if a TrustMark firm has been inspected and is licensed for a particular trade. We all know that when employing a tradesman to do work in your home it can be a daunting process, particularly when you don’t know if they are skilled for the work they are to undertake. Tradesmen will also benefit, as it is another way they can stand out and give themselves a competitive edge by demonstrating to customers that their work has been inspected and they offer warranties. To sum up, tougher, simpler sentencing guidelines will act as a deterrent and help us get the message across to dishonest traders that their activities are intolerable. It will also help industry bodies communicate the need for marks of competence and in the long term protect those in danger of being ripped off. “These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off”


GGP December 2013
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