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  • In their own words: tradesmen on how to spot the rogues

    January 04, 2016


  • For the average consumer, it's tricky to judge which tradesmen are reliable and which aren't. To get an insider’s perspective on this issue, we surveyed over 300 UK tradesmen to find out how to spot the so-called 'cowboys' among the heroes*.

    Almost two-thirds of tradesmen agreed that rogue traders are a problem within the industry – read on for the key warning signs to watch out for.

    The dodgy dealer

    The tradesmen we surveyed agreed that the surest sign of a shifty trader is if they ask for money up-front, with over 74% saying they would view this as suspicious. Organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau agree that trustworthy tradesmen wouldn't do this, even to pay for materials, unless they had already done a substantial amount of work first.

    One builder we surveyed shared his simple formula for success: "I always ask to get paid once work is completed and the customer is happy."

    Almost 60% of tradesmen also warned that consumers should be wary of those who ask to be paid cash-in-hand, as it could indicate that the business is trying to work off the books to avoid paying VAT.

    The tardy trader

    Unprofessional behaviour such as arriving late, or not turning up at all, could both be indications that you're dealing with a rogue trader, according to almost three-quarters of our survey.

    When asked the best way to maintain a reputation as a trustworthy trader, one tradesman shared these guiding principles: "I never let anybody down, I always finish a job and I always turn up on time."

    The over (or under) charger

    Two-thirds of tradesmen in our survey recommended that customers ensure they're quoted a fair price for work. However, this doesn't necessarily mean the lowest figure and, in fact, the Citizens Advice Bureau warns that a price that looks 'too good to be true' could itself be a sign of a cowboy, or a tradesman who lacks the experience to provide an accurate quote.

    One professional painter we surveyed recommends giving "a quote by post so the customer can think about it independently" before moving forward.

    Finally, 58% of tradesmen suggested that professionals who provide a guarantee for work are likely to be good eggs, while just under half agreed that having insurance is another strong sign of trustworthiness.

    Business insurance that measures up

    Over half of customers* are suspicious of tradespeople who don’t have public liability insurance – so having the right protection in place could really help your reputation.

    Find out more about AXA's public liability insurance – it’s business insurance that really measures up.

    * Based on an AXA Business Insurance survey of 2000 consumers and 320 tradesmen in the UK conducted in November 2015.

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