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STAY WARM AND SAFE; ADVERTISING FEATURE.

MOVES by the country's coal merchants to clean up their trade has received Government backing from the Minister for Energy and Industry.

MP Brian Wilson has applauded a planned new look to the coal trade's 40year-old code of practice, the Approved Coal Merchants Scheme (ACMS), aimed at safeguarding the public against malpractice by a growing number of itinerant traders and the supply of poor quality fuels.

The Energy Minister, describing the work of the ACMS as "valuable in representing the interests of domestic fuel customers, said: "The Government is committed to achieving a fairer deal for all consumers, and I welcome the benefits this scheme can bring to customers, particularly those who are elderly and on low incomes."

The re-launch of the scheme, which has a countrywide membership of more than 1,200 coal merchants, is intended to reinforce to solid fuel customers that their interests are protected just as well as those of gas and electricity users.

Membership of the ACMS is signified by an easily recognisable and re-styled logo on coal merchants' vehicles as a visible guide to identifying bona fide traders.

The scheme also spells out in its code of practice a commitment to customers, offering not only good service, but a knowledge of appliances, fuels and advice on safety.

It also gives members and their customers access to professional chimney sweeping, heating engineers, the technical back-up of the Solid Fuel Association, and ready access to an official complaints procedure.

The scheme's independent chairman, Brian Ashall, said: "The ACMS has been looking after consumers' interests since it was first launched in 1962, but it is felt a reminder of what we stand for is overdue.

"We are serving a whole new generation of solid fuel users, many unaware of the different fuels and appliances that have been developed over the years or the new legislation introduced.

"There is also the additional concern by the authorities about the number of casual traders in business.

"The combination of all these factors has prompted us to raise ACMS awareness and remind the public of what they can and should expect from an approved and professional coal merchant."

He explained: "To gain membership of the ACMS, a merchant has to demonstrate to an independent panel that they have a good knowledge of fuels, appliances and safety, besides being aware of the support services available to customers.

"Worryingly there are many operating as coal merchants who do not have these necessary qualifications and, as a consequence, like any untrained tradesman, could be a potential danger to the public."

The "Don't Get Your Fingers Burnt" campaign to inform the public of the benefits of using only an approved coal merchant is being launched with the distribution by ACMS merchants of tens of thousands of leaflets.

For further information ring Jane Heginbotham, Secretary to the National Panel on 01773 835400.

THE COAL TRADE CODE

YOUR approved merchant will:

Supply a wide range of solid fuels ensuring you are always able to enjoy the benefits of real fire heating.

Correctly describe, prepare and deliver your chosen fuel.

Give advice on the correct fuel for your appliance and general safety advice.

Keep you advised of current prices and any special discounts or promotions available.

Be insured against public and product liability risks.

On the rare occasion when things go wrong, your merchant will: Investigate any complaint on product or service promptly and sympathetically.

CAPTION(S):

SAFETY FIRST Look out for the Code
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 16, 2001
Words:576
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