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 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.
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. 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.”
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.
Lily’s story (her name has been changed)
Lily a 24-year-old finance company project manager living in London, returned home to her apartment around 11.30pm after meeting friends for dinner. She unlocked her door, but the latch wouldn’t open. She did an online search for an emergency locksmith, avoided calling the cheapest ones, and opted for one with a price list. In hindsight she says these prices were “complete fiction”. A locksmith sent out a subcontractor. The tradesman, who wasn’t wearing any branded clothing, turned up around 30 minutes later. Before he started, Lily asked how much the job would cost and was told £200. The tradesman repeatedly told Lily that that he’d attended lots of jobs like this and that her landlord would pay her back as the lock is faulty. The job only took around 30 minutes. The tradesman spent a long time writing out the invoice before he presented Lily with a bill for £1465. Lily questioned why he was charging so much – he said it was down to an emergency-call out in the middle of the night. He once again said: “I 100% guarantee your landlord will pay”. Lily paid and regretted it pretty much instantly. When she woke the next day, she couldn’t forget about how much she’d been charged. On investigating, Lily quickly learnt there’s no Government body within the industry thanks to an article she found on the Master Locksmiths Association website. She got in touch with an approved MLA member who told her how much the job should’ve cost, which was between £250-£350. Lily also unearthed lots of negative reviews on Trustpilot about the same company. She got in touch with the company – they washed their hands of it and said that as the job had been carried out by a sub-contractor, she’d have to take her complaint up with them. She emailed and called them, but they didn’t respond. She called the tradesman direct, but he didn’t answer. Lily approached Citizens Advice for help. They provided her with a template letter, so she got back in touch with the company that had invoiced her and threatened to report them to Trading Standards. They initially offered her a partial refund of £80+ VAT, which Lily refused, so they increased the offer to £125+VAT. Lily is still awaiting the refund. She admits it’s a negligible amount – she doesn’t even know how they’ve arrived at the figure as it doesn’t relate to anything on the invoice – but she has reluctantly accepted to get at least something back and for closure on the matter.