Stark warning to homeowners as trade body predicts increase as pandemic grips nation
Homeowners are being urged to be on their guard especially during the current and any future lockdowns following reports about the rising number of rogue locksmiths in the industry.
“65% of respondents said rogues are overcharging customers by £200 or more.”
The Master Locksmiths Association’s (MLA), the largest trade body in the UK representing the profession, has issued a stark warning after worrying new statistics reveal the extent of the problem which looks set to worsen as the pandemic continues.
Rogue Locksmiths Overcharging by £200 or More
In a survey of its members, 66% have been called to a job after homeowners have inadvertently called out a rogue locksmith over the past 12 months. Collectively, respondents have attended more than 300 botched jobs involving a rogue locksmith over the last year and 65% of respondents said rogues are overcharging customers by £200 or more.
Over 500 Stories about Rogue Locksmiths
The MLA has also been contacted upwards of 500 times in the last 12 months with stories about unscrupulous activities by people masquerading as locksmiths.
“The industry is unregulated so it’s easy to set up as a locksmith with no training, experience or insurance.”
With unemployment rates rising after companies cut thousands of jobs as Covid-19 continues to hit the economy, the MLA is predicting an upturn in unscrupulous activity in the industry.
Steffan George, managing director of the MLA, said: “The industry is unregulated so it’s easy to set up as a locksmith with no training, experience or insurance. During the pandemic, we expect the number of incidences involving rogue locksmiths to rise as people under increasing financial pressure see it as an easy way to make money.”
Bait and Switch Tactic in Locksmith Industry
Homeowners are also keeping a closer eye on their finances which means they may be tempted by the lure of a good deal. Steffan continues: “Experience tells us that at best, rogues are going to do a sub-standard job or overcharge after initially quoting a cheaper price in a tactic known as bait-and-switch, sometimes ultimately charging ten times that of an inspected locksmith, or at worse, display threatening behaviour or withhold keys to locks they’ve just fitted.
“Tell-tale signs of a rogue locksmith are quoting an unusually low price”
“There are already hundreds of uncertified people working in the industry. With numbers expected to increase, people need to be aware of the dangers and know how to select a reputable locksmith to ensure they don’t fall victim to a rogue.”
Quoting Unusually Low Price usually sign of a Rogue Locksmith
According to 65% of members interviewed the tell-tale signs of a rogue locksmith are quoting an unusually low price however, being vague about experience and uncertain about how they’d carry out the work.
Watch out for Calls Answered by a Call Centre
A third of respondents said the most important thing people should look out for when they select a professional in the trade are calls that are answered by a locksmith, not diverted to a call centre in which details about the locksmith who is doing the job can’t be provided or are difficult to obtain.
Tradesmen should be happy to talk about previous jobs and experience as well as provide photographs and recommendations.
“They can also highlight complaints via MLA’s website where consumers can also find advice on how to choose a vetted, inspected and qualified locksmith”
Steffan added: “Homeowners should go to a reputable firm which employs insured and trained locksmiths – someone who you can trust to protect you and your home.”
How to Complain about a Rogue Locksmith
Anyone who’s had work carried out by a locksmith that they’re not satisfied with can complain to Trading Standards, but they can also highlight complaints via MLA’s website where consumers can also find advice on how to choose a vetted, inspected and qualified locksmith, why they should use an MLA approved locksmith and information on typical average prices for common jobs obtained from MLA members across the UK, to ensure they don’t get overcharged.
To complain about a rogue locksmith or for pricing and general advice, visit https://www.locksmiths.co.uk/faq/complaining-about-a-locksmith/
Lily’s story (her name has been changed)
- Lily a 24-year-old finance company project manager living in London, fell victim to a rogue locksmith early October. She returned home to her apartment around 11.30pm after meeting friends for dinner. She unlocked her door but the latch wouldn’t open. Concierge tried to help but they couldn’t fix the problem
- She was due to go away for the weekend and needed to get into her property so crashing on a friend’s sofa wasn’t an option. She did an online search for an emergency locksmith, avoided calling the cheapest ones, and opted for one with a price list. In hindsight she says these prices were “complete fiction”
- A locksmith sent out a subcontractor. The tradesman, who wasn’t wearing any branded clothing, turned up around 30 minutes later. Lily explained what the problem was. Before he started, Lily asked how much the job would cost and was told £200 – no other costs were mentioned
- The tradesman repeatedly told Lily that he’d attended lots of jobs like this and that her landlord would pay her back as the lock is faulty, intimating that regardless of how much she’d be invoiced, she wouldn’t be out of pocket
“He presented Lily with a bill for £1465”
- He appeared competent and was very confident – there was lots of small talk which Lily says on reflection feels like it was his way of distracting her from talking about money
- The job only took around 30 minutes. The tradesman spent a long time writing out the invoice before he presented Lily with a bill for £1465. Lily said: “I said to the tradesman: “OMG this is crazy, it’s an insane amount of money.” The tradesman reassured Lily that she’d definitely get the money back via the landlord and he told her he’d included a reference to the faulty lock on the invoice
- Lily again questioned why he was charging so much – he said it was down to an emergency-call out in the middle of the night. He once again said: “I 100% guarantee your landlord will pay”. Lily said she was acutely aware she was in an intimidating situation, just her and a locksmith who was holding a drill. She said he sounded like a decent guy with loads of experience. As someone who hasn’t rented that long and wasn’t overly familiar with City prices, she trusted what he told her. She said she felt helpless and like there was no other option than to pay
- Lily paid the bill on her debit card and regretted it pretty much instantly. When she woke the next day she couldn’t forget about how much she’d been charged. On investigating, Lily quickly learnt there’s no Government body within the industry thanks to an article she found on the Master Locksmiths Association website. She also discovered the MLA have their own Approved Company licensing scheme so she got in touch with an approved MLA member who told her how much the job should’ve cost, which was between £250-£350. Lily also unearthed lots of negative reviews on Trustpilot about the same company and it was then she realised she’d been scammed
- Once Lily was aware how much the job should’ve cost, she got in touch with the company – they washed their hands of it and said that as the job had been carried out by a sub-contractor, she’d have to take her complaint up with them. She emailed and called them but they didn’t respond. She called the tradesman direct but he didn’t answer
- Lily approached Citizens Advice for help. They provided her with a template letter so she got back in touch with the company that had invoiced her and threatened to report them to Trading Standards. They initially offered her a partial refund of £80+ VAT, which Lily refused, so they increased the offer to £125+VAT. Lily is still awaiting the refund. She admits it’s a negligible amount – she doesn’t even know how they’ve arrived at the figure as it doesn’t relate to anything on the invoice – but she has reluctantly accepted to get at least something back and for closure on the matter.
- Her words of advice to anyone looking for a locksmith is to contact the Master Locksmiths Association where you can find fully vetted locksmiths in your area and information on rough guide prices from members for typical jobs
Notes to editors:
With its headquarters in Rugby, the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) is the UK’s largest trade association for locksmiths which sets and promotes standards of conduct, practice and materials within locksmithing. The non-profit making body is the largest and longest established locksmith’s association in the UK and its motto of “skill and integrity” emphasise its determination to ensure the public, government and industry receive the correct service and advice on security matters from its members.
The MLA is the authoritative body for UK locksmithing, recognised and recommended by the likes of the police and insurers. It also supplies a panel of its members to assess locks for the British Standards Institute (BSI) whilst itself representing the industry on numerous BSI committees.
The MLA also owns Sold Secure, a test and certification agency specialising in the approval of security products through attack testing. It operates its own scheme with over 20 test standards, which is recognised by the Home Office, insurers and police.
From a small friendly meeting of locksmiths in London in 1958, it has grown into the professional organisation that it is today. It became a limited company in 1986 and in 1994, the Association went through a major restructure and now boasts a worldwide membership and over 350 approved locksmith companies who have been vetted are regularly inspected and have to have passed an exam based proof of competence.
To find your nearest MLA Approved Locksmith visit https://www.locksmiths.co.uk
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