Eat, Sleep, Extort, Repeat.... at the consumer’s expense
Current laws are helping to protect the criminal and not the consumer!
In a recent thesis study published by the University of Leicester, it was recognised that the current legal framework needs to be challenged in its role in enabling rogue traders to operate under the limited-liability protections offered by the legal structures of limited companies. These protections offer the method, the motive and the opportunity for these dubious traders to defraud with limited repercussions…
It was identified that certain ‘rogue traders’, who operate under the premise of extorting money from often vulnerable members of society use the current legal protections offered to limited companies in their attempts to defraud consumers under the premise of home repair and improvements. Although there are numerous methods of scamming operating at any one time, often these are in relation to home improvement. These not only heavily impact the pockets of their targets, but also the emotional attachment they have to their homes.
Within the UK, limited liability protections are in place to offer security to individuals running businesses. These protections prevent individuals from being pursued for business debts if their business was to become insolvent. This limits the ability of any creditors of the business in taking legal action against the directors running the operation to recover debts. Any responsibility attributed to the individual running the business is limited to a fixed sum, which is usually the amount they have invested in the business.
The purpose of limited liability is to encourage and promote investment in limited companies by potentially risk-reluctant investors. However, with an increase in the number of instances where consumers are being defrauded, questions need to be asked of the protections in place for the customer, and by extension, the ease in which limited liability companies can become incorporated. For as little as £12, and in as little as 24 hours, a company can be created from scratch and begin trading. Essentially, this means that your money could be taken from you, and the company that has taken it dissolved, with the responsible parties having the ability to do the same thing to others wearing a different guise in very little time, and with very little outlay to do so.
Ultimately, this means that anyone trading as a limited company could feasibly take your money with very little repercussions. Of course, that is not to say that all companies operating under the protection of limited liability are out to steal from you or provide a sub-standard service. There are many reputable traders who can be stung in similar ways, as these protections are offered against business traders as well as individuals.
So, what can we do to beat the dubious ‘conman limited’ traders out there who are operating under the guise of legitimate business? We asked three tradesmen who run their own limited companies for some advice, and they all offered the same response.
Here’s their five top tips to avoid being duped by doorstep callers and limit the risk of losing your hard-earned money.
- 1) Get multiple quotes – always remember that the cheapest option can cost you more in the long-run.Comparing two or three quotes can give you an indication that something isn’t quite right.
- 2) Have the technical know-how - recognise what work requires attention on your property. By remaining aware, you can be one step ahead and avoid the jargon. Many rogue traders will be less likely to enter into conversation if they think you know what you are talking about.
- 3) Get the quote on paper and use the information wisely -do your homework and research the company online. If the address shown on the letter is a Post Office (PO) Box, then this may be a concern. Companies House keep details of all limited companies and you can check these on their website at companieshouse.gov.uk in the ‘find company information’ section.
- 4) Word spreads - listen to the recommendations of friends and family.
- 5) Be careful who you give your money to - ensure you get receipts for any sums paid, and remember that there is little recourse in claiming back for cash purchases.
The answer is being smart, challenging questionable behaviours and not accepting the first bargain that is offered to you. Chances are if it sounds too good to be true...it probably is.
If you feel that you have been swindled by a rogue trader, you can seek further advice and assistance by visiting our website at consumeradvice.scot for FAQs, or giving us a call on 0808 164 6000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).
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