BBC Watchdog – Rogue Traders feature

Trades Association begins disciplinary action against company following BBC Rogue Traders investigation

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has begun disciplinary action against a company following allegations made in a BBC Rogue Traders investigation that its selling techniques breached the approved Code of Practice.  The company concerned, ‘Arise Mobility’, was featured in the popular BBC programme on Wednesday 12th July 2017.

During the broadcast, the company was challenged by BBC investigators about allegations relating to cold calling, the length of time their sales staff spent at potential customers’ homes, and lack of pricing transparency.  The programme highlighted potential breaches of the BHTA’s Code of Practice. The Code is intended to protect consumers and it is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

The BHTA’s Director of Governance & Policy, Sarah Lepak, was interviewed on the programme.  Commenting on the allegations, she said:

“This firm has not been a member for very long and is already facing disciplinary action leading to expulsion.  The sales techniques described are not consistent with our Code of Practice.

“Our aim is to prevent companies from cold calling customers, either by telephone, or at home. No assessment or sale should last longer than three hours, except in very exceptional circumstances. Inappropriate selling tactics, such as high pressure selling with a high initial price followed by a discount, withholding price information until the end of a sale, or any form of price conditioning, are banned.

“We work hard to ensure that all BHTA members adhere to the Code through the use of mystery shoppers, regular audits and through customer feedback. The BHTA provides information to assist consumers with purchasing goods. Every member company is required to make our advice available to assist people when purchasing products that help to maintain independent living.

“It is important people know that they can buy with confidence from our member companies because only BHTA member companies are covered by our Code of Practice”.

“We have now made Trading Standards, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Furniture Ombudsman aware of the action that we are taking in relation to this company.”

The BHTA and the Code of Practice:

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) is one of the UK`s oldest and largest healthcare associations (founded in 1917). Its membership – of almost 500 companies employing over 17,000 people – comprises both large and small businesses across the many non-pharmaceutical and assistive technology sectors of the healthcare industry, manufacturing, supplying and serving those with special physical needs and specialist healthcare areas, too. The products they make and supply are as varied as wheelchairs and scooters, stair lifts, seating and positioning products, patient support surfaces, electronic communication devices, rehabilitation products, stoma and continence products, first aid equipment, aids and services for children and for visually impaired people, and even prosthetics and orthotics.

The BHTA works closely with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and is audited annually by them to ensure that it complies with their requirements as an approved code sponsor. Every member company is required to make available copies of the leaflet “Get Wise to Buying Safely”

CTSI Approved Consumer Code of Practice

At the heart of the BHTA is the Code of Practice, which sets out the standards that all members must meet to demonstrate best practice in their business dealings. The Code of Practice – the first for consumers in the healthcare industry – has achieved approval under the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme and means that member companies trade ethically and professionally.

The Code states:

Clause 3.1 d

Any claims made by the company and its employees will be honest and truthful, and will not give rise to false expectations. Information, claims and comparisons must be accurate, balanced, fair, objective and unambiguous. They must not mislead either directly or by implication.

Clause 8.1

Inappropriate selling tactics must not be used. (Examples of what might be high pressure selling/mis-selling tactics include: unreasonably long stay (for sales in the home); high initial price followed by the offer of a discount (often followed by a telephone call to the “manager”); discount on the condition that the consumer agrees to the sale that day; withholding price information until the end of the sales discussion/visit; alleged limited availability of a product; misrepresentation of the product, price or contract.)

With regard to the disciplinary proceedings, the following will be considered:

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 say that “A commercial practice is a misleading action if …it concerns any failure by a trader to comply with a commitment contained in a code of conduct which the trader has undertaken to comply with…”

Cold calling:

13.1 of the BHTA Code of Practice says that for sales conducted in a customer’s home cold calling is unacceptable, including by telephone

Length of stay:

13.5 says no assessment or sale should normally last longer than three hours, other than in exceptional circumstances

Price conditioning:

8.1 says that inappropriate selling tactics must not be used and one of the examples cited of what might be high pressure selling is high initial price followed by a discount

Withholding price information:

8.1 also gives as a potential inappropriate selling tactic the withholding of price information until the end of the sale

8.11 says that pricing information must be made available to the customer at the earliest possible stage

13.2 says that the customer must be provided (for sales in the home) with price examples or price ranges in advance of the visit unless not feasible (e.g. visiting the same day)

For further information please email or telephone 020 7702 2141

British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA)

Suite 4.6

The Loom

14 Gowers Walk

London  E1 8PY

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