Homeowners are being urged to be on their guard during lockdown after a rogue locksmith charged one woman £1,465 for a 30-minute job that was initially quoted as £200.
The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) has issued a stark warning after worrying new statistics reveal the extent of the problem which looks set to worsen as the pandemic continues.
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.
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.
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.
A customer named as Lily called a firm to her London flat at 11.30pm last month when a latch failed. She was quoted £200 – then given a £1,465 bill for a job that took 30 minutes.
Lily, 24, said: “I said to the tradesman ‘OMG this is crazy, it’s an insane amount of money’.” He said she would get it back from her landlord and blamed the cost on a night emergency callout.”
After contacting Citizens Advice and the company, she was offered a £125 refund.
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.”
Homeowners are also keeping a closer eye on their finances which means they may be tempted by the lure of a good deal.
Mr Georrge said: “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.
“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.”
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.
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. In addition, tradesmen should be happy to talk about previous jobs and experience as well as provide photographs and recommendations.
Mr Georrgeadded: “Homeowners should go to a reputable firm which employs insured and trained locksmiths – someone who you can trust to protect you and your home.”
To complain about a rogue locksmith or for pricing and general advice, click here.