Rogue traders, otherwise known as cowboy traders, are a scourge upon the British tradesman landscape. Unscrupulous individuals, you’ll have heard all about the nightmares they cause — be it through friends and family or when it’s publicised on TV or social media.
For those unaware, what exactly is a rogue trader?
A rogue trader claims to offer a service, such as plumbing or building work. They come in, perform the task to a poor standard, often overcharge, and then disappear. When you attempt to reclaim your money or get them back to repair the damage they’ve inevitably caused, you are out of luck and out of pocket.
Most tradesmen aren’t rogue traders. Most tradesmen will offer quality work for fair compensation and remain accountable for their services if something were to go wrong. But rogue traders are out there, so how do you ensure these are not the people you are hiring?
Note that not all the points below are going to indicate that you are 100% dealing with a dodgy dealer. However, the more signs you notice, the greater the risk.
- Minimal Online Presence
If you need to find a tradesman, you search online. The web is the ultimate platform for reading more about services, sourcing reviews, grabbing price info, and comparing local traders. Established tradesmen services will invest in a website and an online presence as a method of long-term customer acquisition. A cowboy trader, conversely, has no need to be located online as they want to keep their footprint small and be as hard to reach as possible.
- A Lack of Branding
Does the trader have a van or car? Most traders will use their vehicles as an advertising platform for their business, placing branding and contact information prominently across it. They may also have branded clothing. A plain clothed trader with a basic white van is a potential sign of somebody who doesn’t plan on sticking around for long and who doesn’t want to be noticed.
- Won’t Provide Quotations
Unless it’s a complicated or unusual job, a tradesman has seen it before. They know the hours involved and the resources needed. Therefore, prior to work, they’ll offer you a quoted price on how much the work will cost.
You agree upon the price and they’ll get started.
A rogue trader is looking to scrape as much cash out of you as possible, which means they’ll be unwilling to provide a definite quote. Instead, they’ll aim to throw a bill at your feet after work — a bill you may have agreed to pay without knowledge of what kind of price you’d be paying.
- No Credentials or False Credentials
Depending on the type of services they are offering, a trader might offer up credentials as a way of demonstrating their qualifications and trustworthiness. If possible, you should always check these are genuine by contacting the authority that awarded the certification. Rogue traders will most likely give out false credentials or fail to provide any at all.
- Shockingly Low Prices
“Fair work for fair pay” is the mantra of a reputable trader. They come in, they do a good job, and they expect to earn a wage commensurate to that work. When shopping around for services, you may come across professionals that offer significantly lower prices than their competitors.
This is a red flag.
Rogue traders are known for undercutting the market to entice customers. However, their prices are so low because the work isn’t to the required quality. Often, it is simply a facade that will fall to pieces after they’ve made their getaway.
- Only Accepts Cash
This is a big warning sign for any self-employed individual, be they a tradesman or of another profession. Only accepting cash-in-hand is highly suspicious as it suggests they are avoiding any kind of traceable paper trail. This is not only for tax avoidance purposes, but it’s also so customers aren’t able to attempt to reclaim money through banks.
Cash payment is fine if it works for you, but always discuss the possibility of online payment before work begins. If they flat out refuse bank transfers, consider their true intentions.
- The Number One Sign of a Rogue Trader? Full Upfront Payment
74% of genuine tradesmen agree that the surest way to identify a rogue trader is if they ask for full payment upfront.
When it comes to work on your property, you only want to pay for what has been done. Payment upfront means it can be difficult to dispute issues, as the worker could already be out the door. A trade professional who is confident that they are providing a quality service will not ask for full upfront payment — although they may request a deposit for large jobs.
A rogue trader, who wants to escape before you have time to really inspect their handiwork, will want the money first. It also opens you to the risk they will leave halfway through a job.
This is a collaborative post.