‘Rogue’ mobility aids sellers under microscope as complaints rise


A government advice service has warned about the “sharp practices” of some companies selling mobility scooters and other independent living products, after a steep rise in complaints.
Consumer Direct, which is run by the Office of Fair Trading, received more than 1,500 complaints about mobility aids in the first four months of the year, across England, Scotland and Wales, a rise of eight per cent on the same period in 2008.
Many complaints concerned defective products or poor customer service, with nearly a quarter about sales and business practices, including allegations of misleading claims.
Some salespeople spent several hours in the homes of potential customers, while others pretended to be from social services, the NHS or the Department for Work and Pensions.
Michele Shambrook, operations manager for Consumer Direct, said buyers needed to guard against “rogue operators”, and added: “Many of these products are sold to people in their own homes where they can be particularly vulnerable to high pressure selling techniques.”
New laws came into force last year giving most consumers seven days to cancel contracts signed in their home.
Other new regulations ban traders from treating consumers unfairly, misleading them, or subjecting them to high pressure sales techniques. They also have to leave someone’s home when asked. The maximum punishment is two years in prison.
Consumer Direct said prospective buyers should consider using companies that are members of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA).
Sarah Lepak, assistant director of the BHTA, said: “I think consumers generally are becoming more aware of their rights and are more likely to say if something has gone wrong.”
But she said complaints about BHTA members had remained stable over the last year, and there had been no complaints of pressure selling by a BHTA member since a code of practice was introduced in 2006.
For advice, call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

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