Posted: 17 April, 2002
Salesmen who sell assistive products to older and disabled people are often guilty of "sharp practices", according to a new report.
Many disabled people are pressured into buying expensive products, such as powered scooters, beds and chairs that they donít need.
Others are offered dramatic price reductions, or receive poor demonstrations or sub-standard after-sales service.
The Ricability report was commissioned by Age Concern, which is now seeking a meeting with the Office of Fair Trading and the government.
Recommendations include more transparent pricing, strengthening industry codes of practice, promoting independent advice and government legislation to protect consumers.
Sarah Lepak, of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA), which represents some companies in the industry, said: "I canít say the report surprised us, because of the anecdotal evidence we have received over time. What is disturbing is that people consider that type of practice suitable when dealing with elderly and disabled people."
Helena Herklots, head of policy for Age Concern, said: "What I think it shows is that there is a minority of companies that do have poor selling practices and that it is something we do need to tackle."
The BHTA has set up a voluntary registration scheme for salesmen, which it hopes will improve ethical behaviour.
It is also carrying out government-funded research** to decide whether an independent ombudsman is needed to resolve complaints.
The report includes a string of disturbing case studies. In one, a disabled man in his 80s was sold an over-priced riser recliner chair he didnít need.
In another, a woman with severe arthritis was sold a scooter she was not strong enough to use. And an elderly couple with arthritis were sold two adjustable beds after a "very persistent" salesman stayed in their home for four hours.
For advice, contact: the Disabled Living Foundation, tel: 0845 1309177;
the Disabled Living Centres Council, tel: 0161 8341044; Age Concern, tel:
0800 009966; or your local trading standards office.
*Sharp Selling Practices, £10, from Age Concern, tel: 020 87657429.
Call BHTA if you have a similar problem, tel: 01732 458868.