Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Plumbers Tap Up Customers for Double the Going Rate

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Plumbers Tap Up Customers for Double the Going Rate

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BENHAM

CONSUMERS are at a growing risk of being overcharged by rip- off plumbers, with some firms demanding up to twice the going rate for emergency call-outs.

When the Evening Standard contacted 20 plumbers about a supposed leaky ceiling in a flat, we were quoted prices well above the industry norm of [pound]50 an hour. One firm in south-east London demanded almost [pound]100 an hour.

First Call Services in SE1 quoted an astonishing [pound]95 per hour plus VAT for an emergency callout while ABS Plumbing in Kilburn charges [pound]65 for the first hour, but that goes up to [pound]85 for each subsequent hour.

The area where a firm is based appears to have no bearing on the prices charged. Joe T Brown of West Kensington had the lowest with a callout fee of [pound]35 then [pound]24 an hour inclusive of VAT. Putney Plumbers Ltd charged [pound]45 per hour plus VAT while Harmon Plumbing and Heating in Chiswick quoted [pound]48 per hour plus VAT.

However Christopher Evans, trading standards officer with Camden council, said: "People living in wealthy areas such as Hampstead are preyed on by plumbers who know they are less likely to challenge overcharging.

One recent case involved a South American woman who didn't speak good English paying [pound]500 for work that should have cost [pound]150."

One plumber with almost 20 years' experience told the Standard: "People not only pay over the odds for a callout, they are often charged ridiculous prices for materials."

The plumber, who preferred not to be named, gave the example of one householder recently made to pay [pound]245 for a water pump which would have cost the plumber [pound]35.

Andy Watts, chief executive of the Institute of Plumbing, said the public must "avoid being taken advantage of" by obtaining at least three quotes and getting to know a reliable plumber before emergencies occur.

A senior official at the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) said several "dodgier" operatorsare exploiting the severe shortage of plumbers - estimated to be as high as 30,000 nationally - to increase prices to "unacceptable levels". …

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