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Cold-calling: top 5 tips to avoid rogue traders and installers

Man pushing the door open, while older woman tries to close itWe regularly get enquiries via email or social media about unscrupulous individuals using the Energy Saving Trust name, when they’re hard-selling energy-saving goods and services, real or imagined, to people.

Energy Saving Trust does not cold call. If you receive a phone call or answer the door to someone using our name to try and sell you products or services – they are not legitimate.

We NEVER cold-call, door-step or even sell anything directly to any householder, for that matter. We’re here to give independent advice, deliver programmes and train other, legitimate companies and organisations to give accurate advice.

If you come across someone trying to sell you products, either over the phone or on the doorstep, you can report them to trading standards. Citizens Advice have more advice about how to do this, as well as a consumer helpline that can help assess the problem.

Finding a reliable installer

Most installers are honest tradespeople making a living, and doing things by the book. Don’t let the fear of encountering one of the few bad apples put you off from improving your home’s energy efficiency.

In Scotland, if you’re installing renewables, you can use our Renewables Installer Finder tool.

We’ve got a series of tips to help you find a reliable tradesperson or installer, wherever you are in the UK.

1. Get a personal recommendation

Ask friends or neighbours whether they can recommend anyone to help with your home improvements. Local internet forums are also a great source of information and advice.

2. Check whether the trader is a member of any accreditation schemes or trade associations

Many traders are members of trade associations and accreditation schemes, which aim to improve standards across their industry. Some will have very stringent membership regulations, others will do little more than ask for a fee to allow traders to join. However, most schemes and associations can offer additional support, should you have a problem with your installer or trader.

Some trades must register their level of qualification. Anyone working with gas, should have Gas Safe registration. You can find a registered electrician through the Electrical Safety First site.

Reputable renewables installers should be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

There are a large number of accreditation schemes, which display reviews and ratings from previous customers. In an age of fake news, these aren’t always totally reliable but some to look out for include Which? Trusted Traders, Trading Standards Approved Buy with Confidence and Trustmark.

3. Get several quotes for any work

Which? recommends getting three detailed quotes for any work that you want done on your home. A range of quotes should help you find a fair rate for the work, as well as giving you the opportunity to meet the tradespeople in question and ask them plenty of questions. You can always ask to see examples of recent work they’ve done, as well as asking for references and testimonials.

4. Be aware of your consumer rights

Remember you are allowed to cancel any order made online, over the phone or in person, within 14 days under Consumer Contract Regulations.

If you are unhappy with an installation or home improvement job, and you can demonstrate that it was done without reasonable care or skill, then you are entitled to ask for the work to be redone under the Consumer Rights Act. Any reputable trader will want to ensure you’re happy with the work they’ve done and will take your complaint seriously.

It’s quite standard for there to be niggles (or worse) with building work in particular and resolving issues is part of the process, so you shouldn’t feel anxious about approaching your trader. Citizens Advice have more information about resolving problems with building work, decorating or home improvements.

5. Protect yourself against rogue traders

Don’t accept business from people who approach you in the street or on the doorstep.

Check that anyone you’re working with has a landline number and a business address rather than just a mobile.

Check that your trader has appropriate insurance – they should have public liability insurance to cover any damage to your property.

Agree a fixed price where possible for any work. Don’t pay all the money upfront – only make the final payment when you’re happy with the job.

Get an agreement of the scope of work and payment schedule in writing – an email is fine, as it will count as proof if you have problems later. If there are any changes to the initial agreement, get those in writing too.

If you come up against someone who is uncomfortable about giving references, writing down any agreements or is difficult to contact – it’s probably best to walk away. They might do a great job but if they don’t, it’s going to be hard to resolve the problem.

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