Helpdesk: Quick checks before buying can alert you to known scammers

Q. Last year I spent a substantial part of my yearly budget (£1,500) on a new kitchen but this was delivered incomplete, ie without doors, drawers, or finished cabinets.

We assumed the rest would soon follow, so I got a joiner friend of mine to install what we could. But then none of the other items were received and we have been unable to use the kitchen for the past four months.

I wrote to the company to complain, but received no response. A few days later the letters returned un-opened with a postman’s note that there was nothing at the address!

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I then contacted Trading Standards, who phoned the company and were told that the reason the cabinets weren’t complete is because we didn’t pay the full amount, (despite the “paid in full” invoice).

I am now in an awkward position. I want my money back and am very angry at the company for their cowboy attitude. What can I do?

PM, Glasgow.

A. Citizens Advice Scotland gave us this reply:

“The CAB which dealt with this client did some research into the company in question, and quickly found that there were numerous other complaints of fraud against the firm. We advised the client to take the legal route, and to in fact contact the police directly.

“But this case shows a very simple lesson: it is always worth checking out the company you are dealing with. Not just when you are dissatisfied with their service, but ideally before you sign anything and give them your money! These days, with the internet, it’s very easy to check out companies online, and a few minutes browsing really can save you from a great deal of problems.

“You can research companies by doing a simple google search, but www.actionfraud.uk is an excellent site, and www.moneysupermarket.com also allows consumers to exchange information about rogue companies. And of course there’s always http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/. You could get your case featured on TV!

“But don’t forget, this works two ways: if you have been the victim of a scam, make sure you spread the word and report it – not just to Trading Standards or the police, but to these online consumer sites, to help stop the scammers exploiting others.”

• If you have a consumer issue that you would like tackling, contact Claire Smith on (0131) 620 8511 or e-mail [email protected]