A scheme that has succeeded in stamping down on doorstep conmen could be under threat, Which? has learnt.
‘No cold-calling zones’ have been hailed by trading standards chiefs as the most successful public protection programme ever.
They’ve helped combat doorstep crime, such as criminals using cold calling to find easy-distraction burglary targets.
These zones have become popular among householders and around 1,000, covering 100,000 households, currently operate in Britain.
But the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) does not support such zones and is looking into the legality of them.
A spokesman said: ‘In some cases these zones may deflect from legitimate traders.
‘OFT is working with key stakeholders to find a solution that balances the need to protect the vulnerable whilst ensuring honest business are not penalised. We are seeking legal advice on no cold-calling zones.’
Surrey is one magnet for uninvited workmen peddling over-priced and bad quality services but since setting up one of the largest no cold-calling zones in the UK, covering 11,000 homes in Guildford, distraction burglary figures have dropped by 17 per cent.
Assistant County Trading Standards Officer Steve Ruddy said: ‘There is a reduced fear of crime and residents feel more empowered.’
Glen Armstrong is Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for Shalford, Guildford. He said: ‘We used to have regular visits from people selling goods or services we did not need. While some were legitimate others were distinctly dodgy.
‘Now that our District Neighbourhood Watch Support Group has provided a sign at the end of our road and stickers to go by our front doors, visits have diminished and it is much easier for our residents, particularly the elderly, to tell those who ignore the sign to go away.’
Cambridgeshire was the first local authority to introduce a zone. Trading Standards Officer David Broughton said: ‘We had a lot of people who felt nervous in their own homes. Now we get more requests for zones than we can cope with, so we get the communities to run them, which empowers them. The zones aren’t expensive to set up, with signs costing as little as £15.’
But Richard Berry, Director of the Direct Selling Association, said: ‘These zones have no legal authority and serve only to alarm and worry legitimate traders who call, like Avon ladies. These are totally unfair restrictions on human rights.’