In this day and age of fraudsters and charlatans who think it’s quite acceptable to rip off the frail, disabled or the elderly, West Lothian Council has come up with a plan to put a stop to it once and for all.
The Trusted Trader Scheme has been running for just over a year now, and is regarded as the benchmark for others looking to emulate its success.
The West Lothian scheme was launched by the council’s trading standards team a year ago after consultation with local business and members of the public and now has 41 members covering a range of trades and professions. The web-based scheme allows consumers to search for reputable traders, using the comments and ratings of previous customers as a guide to selection.
Previous UK-wide research showed the level of complaints about poor workmanship in the home-improvement sector to be very high.
In response local authority backed approved trader schemes, such as Trusted Trader, were developed to increase consumer confidence, support the local economy through the promotion of good practice within the business community and to help protect consumers from doorstep crime.
Executive councillor for the environment Tom Conn said: “The Trusted Trader Scheme is an ideal way for both local residents to find reputable firms, and local businesses to prove the good service they offer their customers, so it’s a win, win for all parties.
“We expect the Trusted Trader scheme to continue to grow as more firms see the benefits to them and more residents use the scheme to help identify firms they can trust with their work.”
Before joining the scheme, traders undergo various checks and are required to sign up to a code of practice agreeing to trade fairly, with trading standards monitoring their business practices.
Although trading standards are not directly involved in the individual agreements between customers and traders and cannot offer compensation if things go wrong, they can offer assistance through their Dispute Resolution Service.
Traders that breach the terms and conditions of the scheme can have their membership suspended or revoked.
Recent consultation with members has revealed several reporting an increase in business since they joined up and some have made helpful suggestions to improve the scheme further.
Ed Machin, Trading Standards Manager, says ”We’re delighted with the response from the local business community since the scheme was first launched. Hopefully over the coming months we’ll see even more traders discovering the benefits of membership and making the West Lothian Trusted Trader brand an established feature on the local economic landscape.”
Denis Watson of D Watson Roofing in Linlithgow told us: “I am a member of the scheme and have been since its inception. As a family run business with a pedigree history going back to 1986 it’s important to us that our customers can feel comfortable when dealing with the firm - to that end it seemed a no-brainer for us to join the Trusted Trader scheme, as it enhanced our reputation and credibility, as well as giving customers the peace-of-mind they’re not dealing with some cowboy company.
“If we do something wrong we can be held accountable.”