Number of victims hit by rogue sellers on the rise 'due to recession'
ROGUE selling is on the up in Derbyshire – and the county's trading standards boss blames it on the recession.
Robert Taylour said some unemployed people have become so "desperate" for work they have ended up at "immoral" companies which scam customers.
He said, while some had quit in protest at being told to use high-pressure sales tactics, Mr Taylour predicted others remained with dishonest firms to keep up with their household bills.
Mr Taylour, head of trading standards at Derbyshire County Council, said it was a significant problem.
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The council could not provide specific figures but Mr Taylour said his team had noticed the increase of complaints. He said the problem created several types of "victims".
"There are people who have been desperate for employment and have ended up working for very profitable enterprises, which use high-pressure sales techniques to persuade people to purchase a product or service they do not want," said Mr Taylour.
"Many of them needed work but, after taking the job, have said: 'I'm not happy with how things are done' and decided not to stick it out.
"They are victims with the vulnerable customers who have been targeted, along with, I guess, those who feel they have no choice but to stay in their job – even though they disagree with what they are paid to do."
Mr Taylour said one area which kept his department "very busy" was firms which prey on the elderly, in a bid to sell them mobility aids they do not want or need.
The scam sees an elderly householder receive an unsolicited phone call from a rogue trader, who gives the impression they are calling on behalf of social services or the NHS.
However, the true purpose of the call is to elicit an appointment to see the householder. Once invited into the victim's property, the rogue trader is able to subject the householder to their high-pressure sales techniques.
This includes an "assessment" of their needs – during which they will typically ask what medication the householder is taking to further support the impression they are from a health or care service.
Last year, a couple who ran two former mobility companies admitted defrauding elderly victims out of more than £40,000.
Husband and wife Amarjit, 51, and Ranjit Gill, 45, ran Virgo Healthcare Limited and Lifestyle from premises in Gainsborough Business Park, Long Eaton.
Amarjit Gill was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Ranjit Gill was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid community work.
Mr Taylour said most rogue traders worked under a commission structure, which sees them get paid more if they manage to sell a product at a price above a certain level. Other tactics include "special discounts", designed to get a customer to order straight away.
The trading standards team at the council have also received examples of companies failing to honour cancellations and taking cash upfront but failing to deliver any goods.