Turning up the heat on cold-callers

Photo Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Following successful pilots elsewhere in the country and some 65 schemes covering 44,000 city households, Newcastle City Council continues to roll out ‘No Cold Calling Zones’.

The zones help to prevent unsolicited visits to residents’ homes. A ‘No Cold Calling Zone’ is an area in which residents have decided they don’t want uninvited visits to their properties (cold calls). The zones, 55 in total across Newcastle have been set up by the authority’s Trading Standards Service, working closely with Northumbria Police and Safe Newcastle, the community safety partnership. To date, four districts (including Benwell, Scotswood and Kenton) in Newcastle are covered by a blanket directive on cold-calling, to stop people being fleeced out of their money by rogue traders.

The principal aim of the zones is to reduce the number of unwanted callers soliciting services or goods, which in turn lowers the number of criminal offences against law-abiding city residents.

Various sources list complaints about unsolicited traders offering roofing, paving, insulation work, general building and burglar alarms. Newcastle City Council and Citizens Advice urge consumers, especially the elderly and vulnerable adults living on their own, to be on their guard against dodgy traders and salesmen. In 2018, Consumer Direct, then the UK’s watchdog, received more than 13,000 complaints relating to home maintenance work. With complaints peaking over the summer months, rogue tradesmen will often try to sell services at attractive rates and use manipulative sales techniques to trick residents into making hasty decisions.

Over the last two years, hordes of aggressive unlicensed hawkers have pestered residents on Gosforth High Street, flogging over-priced tea-towels and kitchen utensils. Failure to buy one, too often results in a torrent of abuse. According to the Trading Standards service, many are bogus and aren’t registered ex-offenders.

To avoid being swindled, residents need to be vigilant. If a trader knocks on your door, don’t agree to on-the-spot repairs, or sign anything there and then. Be wary of special offers, particularly from energy companies, or warnings that your house is unsafe. Don’t make snap decisions and take time to speak with someone you can trust, such as a family member, a trusted neighbour or your local ward councillor.

More and more residents are asking their councillors and delegated ward committees to establish and roll out ‘No Cold Calling Zones’ in their neighbourhoods. Following consultation with residents, with their consent a zone will be set up in their locality. Householders will get a window sticker and information packs, and metal signs will be placed on lamp posts to deter these people. By working together, we can stamp out this doorstep crime. ‘No Cold Calling Zones’ can help rejuvenate local communities so that neighbours and groups can look out for one another and help rebuild community confidence and cohesion.

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