Winter is coming – and so are the boiler scams

 

As the days grow ever shorter – and the nights longer – householders’ thoughts are turning to their central heating system and its boiler, and making sure both are ready to face another long winter.

Many will be considering how best to protect themselves from unexpected, and large, bills in relation to central heating and boiler faults.

Householders, however, are not alone in thinking about their boilers. The onset of the cold months usually sees the council’s trading standards team logging a significant increase in the number of enquiries regarding boiler-breakdown cover packages.

There are concerns that many providers of such cover packages are not insured, not lawfully registered with the appropriate regulatory bodies, and may be using engineers who are neither qualified nor competent to safely carry out work on gas fittings and appliances.

Recent years have seen a growing number of firms being set up, often in temporary rented office locations, and cold-calling residents offering boiler cover packages that claim to provide breakdown and repair services for a fixed annual fee.

These are often sold on a sliding scale of service – for example, gold, silver or bronze – varying in price by up to £200 or more. Similar schemes have been reported offering the same sort of pay-now cover for domestic plumbing.

While many legitimate businesses – often household names – provide such cover, it can be difficult to tell from a website or phone call just who you may be dealing with.

Residents are advised to do a little homework before entering into any sort of agreement. They should check how long the company has traded, from where it operates and what insurance cover it has, should the business cease trading.

Failure to do so could result in the disappearance of the money already spent, just when help is needed, leaving the victim having to spend more time and cash finding a reputable business to repair pipes or heating systems.

Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice

“It’s very easy, especially if a fault develops, to panic and sign up for the first deal that’s offered.

“That could, though, turn out to be a costly mistake. Take your time – before a problem arises – to consider the options and ensure you’re dealing with a reputable trader.

“That way, if things do go wrong, you’ll be confident that they’ll be safely put right in a timely manner.”

Anybody carrying out gas-related work must be registered with Gas Safe. Checks can be made at www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help/check_a_business_or_engineer.aspx

Companies House holds details of all limited companies registered in the UK. You can check when a company was started, with details of when (and if) it has ever filed any returns. Go to http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk//wcframe?name=accessCompanyInfo

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