Trading standards officers are warning residents to be aware of a company offering to help them get their Council Tax reduced.
A series of complaints have been received by Cheshire East Council about a company cold calling people in the Borough, claiming to be able to get their homes re-banded so they pay less Council Tax – or even win back a rebate for them.
Residents have reported that the company sometimes implies it is working on behalf of Cheshire East Council and can carry out the checks – for a fee of up to £165.
Yet the Government’s independent Valuation Office Agency (VOA) already allows people to carry out searches of their Council Tax band for themselves – entirely free of charge. Complaints received by Cheshire East’s trading standards’ officers are being forwarded to the Office of Fair Trading’s ‘Scambusters’ team.
The company behind many of the calls is based in the North West and already well known to them.
Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones said: “People are being called at home by these ‘snake oil salesmen’ and offered a service that they can already get for free.
“It is particularly galling that they often infer they are working for the Council and that there is a hefty fee for the service. Neither is true. In fact, householders are able to check for themselves and challenge their banding by simply visiting the VOA’s website.”
The VOA’s advice is to beware of companies that:
· Charge an up-front fee and then don’t challenge your band on your behalf but blame the VOA for not taking any action;
· Insist you are definitely in the wrong band, when in fact your band is correct;
· Claim they are from the local council or VOA and ask for your bank details so they can provide a refund. You may then find that money is taken from your account;
· Say that the VOA charges you to challenge your band, when you can do this for free;
· Claim that you must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge your band, when in fact anyone can do this;
· Say that the VOA won’t reduce your band, without the help of an agent, because the government is short of money.
The VOA also warns that band can go up as well as down.