Government proposals for tougher sentencing on rogue traders has been welcomed by TrustMark, the Government endorsed quality mark for reputable tradesmen.

Following the Sentencing Council's consultation on fraud, bribery and money laundering, a revised framework has been put forward that will affect trades who falsify registeration marks, commit fraud and in some instances even bribe the public.

"The Sentencing Council’s new proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to those cowboys who give tens of thousands of great law-abiding tradesmen a bad name," explains Liz Male, chair of TrustMark. "These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off. The new guidelines are tougher on those who commit multiple offences, especially when the victims are particularly vulnerable."

In addition to this TrustMark is also pushing for even tough penalties on rouge traders fraudulently winning work involving electricity, gas and other potentially fatal substances such as asbestos.

"Tougher, simpler, sentencing guidelines will help us get the message across to rogues that their activities are unacceptable and have no place in our industry," she continues. "Ripping off the vulnerable and putting safety at risk must be deterred and we believe the Sentencing Council’s guidelines go some way to help doing that."

To coincide with this news, TrustMark has introduced a new logo download system this month in an attempt to reduce the risk of fraudulent misrepresentation. Each of its 14,500 registered firms will now be required to use their personalised logo in all of their website and marketing activing, detailing the trades that they have been inspected and licensed for by TrustMark. 

"The new TrustMark logo will provide a more transparent environment of trust for consumers as they will now be able to immediately see if a TrustMark firm has been inspected and is licensed for a particular trade. And tradesmen will be able to give themselves a competitive edge by demonstrating to customers that their work has been inspected and they offer warranties." said Liz.

This year alone TrustMark has had to take action against almost 100 firms that have been found to be misusing its logo, and regularly liaises with Trading Standards and the police when rogue traders are found. It then details each succesful legal action taken on its "Fakes and Forgeries" webpage, in an attempt to warn other homeowners about which business names to avoid.

You can keep up to date with the developments at TrustMark by visiting their official website.

Via Installer Online

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It may be an apocryphal tale, but in the days of the Empire it is said that many passengers embarking for the tropics were persuaded to buy small packages labelled "Insect Destroyer", and further labelled with the instructions "do not open until required". When the packages were finally opened, it was discovered that they contained only two small blocks of wood and the instructions "Place the insect on one block and strike sharply with the other".

In these days of Consumer Protection and Trading Standards it might be hoped that this type of con is very much a thing of the past, but according to a report from the Electrical Safety Council, it is still very much with us. The latest manifestation is a range of "plug-in energy savers", normally sold over the internet pr at car boot sales.

These devices claim to save money on electricity bills by doing some kind of "conditioning" to the supply which makes appliances run more efficiently. This is nonsense. The Electrical Safety Council tested four different models, all of which actually increased power consumption rather than reducing it.

More worryingly, all the devices tested failed to meet basic product standards. In all cases the pin dimensions were not correct. This means that the device would be a loose fit in the socket-outlet, which would cause arcing and overheating. All the devices tested were also of poor internal construction, making them a fire hazard. Several of them were CE marked, but the poor quality of construction would suggest that these marks were almost certainly forgeries. 

There have been reports that these devices are also being sold over the phone. Many elderly people have been targeted by telephone sales calls purporting to originate with one of more of the energy suppliers. Often the caller has the persons' name and address, and on some occasions even part of their credit card number. These calls are bogus and originate overseas, many from a holding company in the USA.

If you should be offered one of these devices, Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) would like to know. You can also contact them on 0300 123 2040.

- Mark Jenkins