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Cowboys traders caught in the act.

There were calls for a clampdown on rogue traders plaguing the North-East yesterday.

Many homeowners can tell tales of being ripped off by roofers or having their cash plundered by plumbers.

Now moves are being made to halt the growing menace.

The calls came as trading standards chiefs launched a national bid to cut out cowboys and released footage of an unscrupulous plumber relieving himself in a vase to show the lengths some workmen would stoop to.

The plumber was caught on film in Surrey while he was supposedly at work in a suburban terrace. He is one of 10 tradesmen facing prosecution after being caught on hidden cameras set up to catch out dodgy tradesmen.

A survey for the Audit Commission revealed that two-thirds of consumers were unsure of their rights and trading standards officers in the North-East are trying to educate people.

Rogue traders and dodgy goods cost customers in Northumberland alone pounds 45m a year - pounds 180 for every adult - and an advice network for consumers is to be launched to clamp down on the problem.

Northumberland trading standards officer Mick King said: "With so many people unsure what to look out for when buying goods or services, and how to put it right when it goes wrong, the network will provide a coordinated service for everybody by pulling together all our expertise.

"Better-informed customers will mean an even tougher time for the rogue traders who try to rip people off."

A Newcastle council spokesman said: "We have a very proactive enforcement team keeping an eye on rogue traders but you do get people who try it on.

"The most common type of problem we have in Newcastle is with overcharging."

In Durham, a major problem for householders is cold-callers.

Head of trading standards Philip Holman said: "These cold-callers con people - particularly old people - into thinking they need something done when they don't really. They then charge them lots of money for not really doing anything."

In South Tyneside the council runs a registration scheme for approved contractors.

A spokesman said: "The council is so determined to clamp down on rogue traders who do shoddy work and then disappear into the sunset with residents' hard earned cash that it is introducing a new registration scheme."

Anyone looking to employ builders or tradesmen to carry out repair work on their homes is urged to consult the list.

South Tyneside councillor Peter Boyack said: "South Tyneside has had enough of cowboy rogue traders who do shoddy work, use pressure-selling and don't come back to rectify problems.

"I am delighted that we have joined forces with local businesses and set up this register of traders who have been checked by us and have agreed to abide by a code of conduct."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 23, 2004
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