General, Trading Standards

National Consumer Week – dementia sufferer’s ‘free’ burglar alarm

Steve Playle from Surrey County Council Trading Standards with Gloria Hunniford at the launch of National Consumer Week which runs from November 12 to 16.

An elderly dementia sufferer pressured into paying £7,000 on a 15-year contract for a ‘free’ burglar alarm has got her money back, thanks to consumer champions at Surrey County Council Trading Standards.

Nesta Hollis, 77, from Esher, Surrey, was recovering from two strokes when she became one of the hundreds of thousands of people a year targeted by rogue traders who prey on the elderly and vulnerable.

As part of National Consumer Week, which runs from November 12 to 16, people are urged to get their hands on a Stop Cold Calling sticker pack to help protect against doorstep crime.

Mrs Hollis was cold called by a company with the offer of a ‘free’ burglar alarm and was later subjected to a three hour sales pitch in her home. The ‘free’ offer turned into a 15-year servicing and monitoring contract at cost of more than £7,000, which the pensioner signed a cheque for.

Mrs Hollis suffers from vascular dementia which means she easily gets tired and confused. Following a complaint to Consumer Direct from Mrs Hollis’ son, Surrey County Council Trading Standards took up the case and dealt with company on her behalf.

The firm was told that because Mrs Hollis suffered from dementia, she did not have the capacity to make such a large financial decision on her own. This invalidated the contract and Mrs Hollis was given a full refund.

Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Mrs Hollis was a vulnerable person attracted by a free offer which ended up costing her thousands of pounds. Thankfully we were able to get her money back. Others may not be as lucky. I’d urge everyone to get hold of a Stop Cold Calling pack and display the stickers telling doorstep traders to go away.”

More than 80,000 people have picked up a Surrey County Council Trading Standards Stop Cold Calling sticker pack in the past year. Research revealed the packs helped:

* 51% of people feel safer in their home
* 75% of people feel more confident when dealing with a doorstep trader
* 83% feel more aware about how to get support and advice

A total of 60% of people said they were less likely to buy from a doorstep trader if they were displaying a no cold calling sticker.

Get hold of a sticker pack here.

National Consumer Week was launched on Monday with a simple message from the Trading Standards Institute – ‘cold calling, don’t buy it’.

People looking for a reliable trader can use the Buy With Confidence scheme which features a list of traders vetted by Surrey County Council Trading Standards. Visit http://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk for more information.

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information and interviews contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Oxley at james.oxley@surreycc.gov.uk.

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