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29 May 2019

Acorn Stairlifts may be breaking laws against pressure selling

Which? undercover investigation reveals Acorn Stairlift salespeople pressuring older people in their homes

Which? has caught one of the UK's largest stairlift companies, Acorn Stairlifts, using pressure tactics to try to convince elderly home owners to make a decision on-the-spot.

Which? researchers found salespeople:

u2022 asking for an immediate decision on buying a reconditioned stairlift;
u2022 calling a 'mate' in the office before offering a 20% discount;
u2022 requesting a refundable £500 deposit there and then.

In Which?'s snapshot mystery shop of three Acorn Stairlift sales pitches we found examples of pressure selling on two visits.

Dodgy tactics also included offering a 10% discount as an incentive for the customer to sign up that day. However, the same discount was then also available at a later date.

These findings follow a Which? survey in in July 2018 that found more than one in three people buying a stairlift from Acorn felt pressured to buy one.

Don't put up with unscrupulous sales practices. Find the best and worst places to buy stairlifts from brands such as Stannah and Age UK, as rated by stairlift owners, and discover the stairlift supplier we've just made a Which? Recommended Provider.

Shameless stairlift claims

Acorn salespeople also made dubious claims to bag a sale, such as an assertion that Acorn produces 'the most reliable stairlift available'.

And they weren't above badmouthing competitors, saying - incorrectly - that Age UK and Companion stairlifts have seatbelts that can't be used by people with arthritis, and that Acorn is the only company to manufacture its product in Britain.

What the law says

Consumer law prohibits traders from using misleading, underhand or aggressive tactics to influence a customer's decision. Which? believes that the practices it found could well be in breach of these rules.

The tactics used also go against Acorn's own code of conduct, which says that 'prices are NOT only available today and this kind of selling technique will not be tolerated by Acorn. In fact this practice is now considered illegal.'

Which? has reported its findings to the industry body, the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA).

Acorn Stairlifts says it is disappointed with the findings and that they no way reflect the extremely positive feedback that it consistently receives both from customers and its sales team.

It told Which?: 'Notwithstanding our reservations about the nature of the data that Which? has obtained, we are investigating the concerns raised. Acorn will not condone or tolerate even isolated instances of individuals falling below our expected high standards of conduct.'

However, Acorn does not accept that a deposit was sought on the visit, or that an immediate decision was required.

How to head off an unscrupulous stairlift sales pitch

Before booking in a visit from a stairlift supplier, do your homework so that you're not relying on the salesperson for all your information.

Which? advice on buying and installing a stairlift includes:

  • Get expert advice to make sure a stairlift is the right option for you. This could be an occupational therapist (OT) accessed through your local council or privately via the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
  • Get several quotes as you would for any product, and don't sign up (or pay any deposits) on the day.
  • Make sure the cost of any work needed - for example, to remove a radiator - is included in your quotes.
  • Think of your stairlift purchase as buying an ongoing service and ask about aftercare - for example, details of emergency call-outs and what is covered in the warranty.

Find out more about how to head off pressure selling tactics and ensure you get the best stairlift for your needs in our guide on dodgy stairlift sales tactics to avoid.

Which? Recommended Provider for buying a stairlift

Our research has found that one stairlift provider met all our criteria for becoming a Which? Recommended Provider (WRP). The provider scored highly for important factors such as giving advice, dealing with complaints, and overall customer service. Visit our best places to buy a stair lift to find out who made the grade.