COLUMN: Tim Drew, neighbourhood watch, November 29

Last year, 12,000 complaints were made to the Consumer Direct helpline (08454 04 05 06) about uninvited doorstep selling. And since the Citizens Advice consumer service started in April this year, more than 6,500 complaints have been received on this same problem.

These figures are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg as many cases will go unreported, including those involving vulnerable homeowners who have been intimidated and cheated by rogue doorstep traders who often offer home maintenance services such as roofing, guttering, gardening and driveway work.
So, during the Trading Standards Institute’s National Consumer Week (launched earlier this month and supported by the Office of Fair Trading, Citizens Advice and Action Fraud) the slogan “Cold Calling – Don’t Buy It” became the banner under which consumers are encouraged and empowered to reject cold calling on their own doorstep. 
No cold calling signs can be downloaded from the Trading Standards Institute’s website, and are also available from the police, but these will not always deter doorstep traders. So, it is the more important we all know what to do and say if that situation should arise, as it is only too easy to get caught unawares.
If you receive an unexpected call, secure the door’s bar and chain before opening it, and double check the caller’s ID. If callers offer to do work on your property, then politely but firmly tell them that you do not deal with tradesmen except by appointment – and then shut the door! Don’t give them the chance to bully you – many doorstep traders will point out work that “needs urgent attention” and sometimes build up pressure by making repeat calls within a short period of time. 
Those who fear they have been a victim of fraud are advised to report it to Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040. Anyone feeling threatened should call the police on 999.