All forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are members of Operation Liberal. Operation Liberal supports national investigations into distraction burglaries and doorstep crime, and associated travelling criminality (please note that this should not be confused with the traveller community).
The unit identifies and analyses crime series and monitors intelligence on criminals and organised crime groups who travel throughout the UK to commit these crime types.
This collaborative approach solves more crimes and sends a message to the criminals who commit this type of crime that they will face a nationally co-ordinated investigation and as a result they can expect significant sentences.
Operation Liberal works with many partner agencies including Water UK, Energy UK, Trading Standards, Crimestoppers and the Home Office.
Victims of distraction burglary and rogue trading tend to be elderly and vulnerable and can suffer terribly both emotionally and physically after an offence.
Trading Standards and Sussex Police often receive reports about traders cold calling at the door and telling homeowners that they need work to be done to their home or garden, for example that their roof or guttering are damaged or that their trees are unsafe and need work. The work has then been badly done and sometimes the price jumped by ten times because the trader “helpfully” found other gardening work that also had to be done!
We also receive reports about other home maintenance cold calls such as driveway work and roof cleaning. In some driveway cleaning cases the traders have persuaded the homeowner to have the back patio cleaned as well as the front drive, causing the price to jump up hugely from the original estimate. Although roof cleaning may make the tiles look cleaner, the force of the pressure washer can cause other problems with the roof. The National Federation of Roofing Contractors advises that moss is not a problem on a roof and that this service is completely unnecessary.
Trading Standards advice is never to have work done by anyone who cold calls. No reputable trader ever approaches a customer in this way. If you think your home or garden needs work, please use a recommendation from friends/neighbours or contact the Citizen's Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 to find a good trader on the Trading Standards “Buy With Confidence” list. You should also obtain three quotes to check if the price is competitive and if the work really needs doing - never rely on the word of a single trader.
Any contracts over £42 that are agreed in a consumer's home are subject to a 14 day cooling off rights. The homeowner must be given written information about their right to cancel, about the identity of the trader who is doing the work and the total cost of the work to be carried out. The consumer must authorise the trader in writing if the work is to start within the 14 day cooling off period. Just having a statement on a flyer or business card that there is a 14 day cooling off period is not enough.
Please keep an eye out for any vulnerable neighbours who may be approached by cold callers. If someone has agreed to work from a cold call and there is no paperwork, it is likely that there will be a problem.
Similarly, if you see roof work being carried out and there is no scaffolding in place, there is likely to be a problem with that trader. Call 101 to let the local police know.
If you need further help or advice please contact the Citizen's Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.
Find a trusted local tradesperson - 'Buy With Confidence' Scheme
The 'Buy With Confidence' Scheme was introduced by Trading Standards in response to concerns about ‘rogue traders,’ which are often highlighted in the media. The scheme provides consumers with a list of local businesses and traders who have given their commitment to trading fairly. Every business listed has undergone a series of detailed checks by trading standards officers before being approved as a member.
In order to become a 'Buy With Confidence' member, a business must apply or be recommended to join the scheme and must then pass a set of tailored background checks, including criminal records, creditworthiness county court judgement and insurance. References are required from previous customers and applicants must agree to abide by the scheme’s code of conduct, requiring them to follow the letter and spirit of the law. Only if all requirements are met, will a business be granted membership, and their conduct will continue to be monitored thereafter. We cannot promise that 'Buy With Confidence' members’ work will be perfect every time, but you can expect any problems to be dealt with fairly by the business, and you can turn to Trading Standards for advice and mediation in the event of an unresolved issue.