Don’t fall victim to unscrupulous providers of business and legal services in North Devon - use Buy With Confidence to find professionals you can trust

Don't sign away your money or personal information to a rogue tader. Picture: Getty ImagesDon't sign away your money or personal information to a rogue tader. Picture: Getty Images

The words 'rogue trader' usually bring to mind someone carrying out shoddy building or repair services. Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards often receive complaints about dishonest plumbers, electricians, roofers, driveway repairs, drive layers and others offering practical, hands-on work.

But there are rogue operators in every line of business, and that includes business and IT services, tax advice, legal work and, especially, will writing.

Reputable service providers in these lines of work are usually highly regulated by professional bodies. But if you do fall victim to a dishonest business, IT, financial or legal adviser, who has perhaps falsified their accreditations, the consequences can be severe.

A dishonest IT operator could lose or steal important business data, or misuse the personal details on your system. They could corrupt files or fail to install anti-virus software properly, leaving you vulnerable to future problems. They could also claim they need to take your computer away for repairs, and then fail to return it – along with all the information stored on it.

Don't let your business or your personal finances fall victim to a rogue trader. Picture: Getty ImagesDon't let your business or your personal finances fall victim to a rogue trader. Picture: Getty Images

Will writing is another area where you have to be very careful. This is because will writing services are less heavily regulated than solicitors, so you won't have the same protection if things do go wrong. The person helping to write a will is in a position of authority, and the customer may feel vulnerable and reluctant to question their advice. Given the nature of the service, the problems don't become evident until it's too late – and this happens at an already distressing time.

Great care is also needed when seeking tax advice. If this is badly mishandled you can fall foul of HMRC as a result. You could also face a heavy fine, or even prison, for failing to declare everything you should.

In some of these cases, it would be very difficult or complicated for the customer to prove that the problems had not been caused by their own mistakes or poor decisions. Faulty work by a rogue plumber can be inspected by a safety expert, but there may be no record of the bad advice that led to business losses or costly legal complications.

For these reasons, Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards Service advise using their free Buy With Confidence scheme to find an honest and reliable practitioner. Its members include firms providing IT, financial and legal services, including will writing.

Buy With Confidence members aim to set a shining example.Buy With Confidence members aim to set a shining example.

East Devon Law, based in Ottery St Mary, has been a member of Buy With Confidence for around seven years, and managing partner Ian Hunt cannot rate the service highly enough.

“Big companies have their verification procedures, but as a small company we haven't, and if we made our own ID cards they wouldn't carry any weight. But we can say 'look at the BWC site, it's got all our details there'.

“We offer free home visits, and one of the things we felt was very important was that if you're inviting a stranger into your home, you need to know that person had been verified and was genuine, especially as the majority of our clients are elderly.

“It instils that initial confidence, and we find that's a huge win point for the client, and also for us.”

Buy With Confidence members are all been checked by Trading Standards for County Court judgements relating to unpaid debts, criminal records, and records of directors being disqualified. Their internal complaints system is examined, their business is audited to make sure it meets all the relevant legislation, and references are taken from previous customers.

Buy With Confidence members are also committed to providing excellent customer service. In the unlikely event that anything does go wrong, you will have the full support and back-up from Trading Standards to help reach a resolution, including access to mediation.

To find out more, and get information on Buy With Confidence members in your area, visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/