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23 March 2012, 06:00
Energy conscious consumers in Hertfordshire are being warned to be on the look out for bogus cold callers selling devices they claim can cut energy use.
Hertfordshire Trading Standards is warning that the devices, which are being sold for up to £99 each, could pose a fire and electrocution risk. The devices also offer no energy savings.
Mike MacGregor, Community Protection Manager for Hertfordshire County Council told Heart a house in the north of the country was gutted by fire after one of the devices blew out ''There had been work done in the area, the electricity had been shut off and when it was switched back on there was a power surge and the energy saving device blew out and there was a rush and a burst of flames from that that set fire to the house and gutted the first floor and the ground floor of the house.''
He goes on to say the devices are made in the Far East where they don't have the same safety standards as we do in Europe ''There's poor quality workmanship, they don't have the same standard of testing that we would have, so we have had products tested that had a risk of electrocution because of the way they were wired.''
The cold callers speak to unwitting victims and appear genuine, often possessing details of their energy supplier and sometimes some or all of the digits of their credit/debit card.
The plug-in-the-wall devices have been sold by a number of different ‘companies’ nationwide and can be identified by the distinctive green box and instruction manual in broken English.
Associated with this first scam, a second bogus 'claims management company' operation has been uncovered.
The claims management company tells consumers that they have been sold a faulty energy saving device and could be eligible for up to £3,000 compensation.
To qualify for compensation, consumers are told to buy a Ukash voucher of around £300 to cover admin costs and to wait for their compensation cheque to arrive. However, this is a scam and victims do not receive any money after sending through the Ukash voucher code over the phone.
Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Richard Thake said: “These bogus callers are preying on the most vulnerable members of our communities at a time when energy prices are at their highest. Not only do these companies take money from hard working people, they are putting lives at risk through potentially unsafe products.
“We urge any consumers who have bought or been contacted by a company selling these products or offering compensation to contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards.”
If you think you own one of these devices or have been called by the bogus claims company contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.