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Raising the Standard: Consumer Vulnerability

Read a transcript of this video

At certain points in life, we all need a little bit of extra time, support and attention. No matter who you are, sometimes circumstances can cause you to be in a vulnerable situation, whatever your age.

Traders who go into people’s homes in the course of their work should be mindful of the things that can make a customer vulnerable, and should consider how vulnerable people use their business.

They should also be prepared to give customers they think might be vulnerable or limited in their capacity to make a decision a little extra care and attention.

There are two distinct types of vulnerability: situational vulnerability and marketplace vulnerability.

Situational vulnerability arises when a person faces a difficult or traumatic period in their life – such as a bereavement, a divorce or a period of ill health – and their ability to cope with things suffers as a result.

Marketplace vulnerability occurs when a person is confronted by a product or service with which they are unfamiliar, and needs additional time or information to make an informed decision.

In both cases, the consumer may be particularly vulnerable to being exploited or misled.

There are some simple, straightforward things you can do to assist vulnerable consumers.

First, think about the design and layout of any paperwork or written materials you use. Large fonts, simple design and clear language can help people with sight problems or difficulties with English.

Make sure the customer is given the information they need and has the opportunity to ask questions. Timekeeping can be particularly important for vulnerable people, so specify a time for your appointment and let them know if you’re going to be delayed.

If you feel a customer may be vulnerable, suggest that a friend or family member is present when they come to a decision or when you are working in their home. This can be useful to you as well, as it can prevent misunderstandings.

And be on the lookout for signs that a vulnerable person has been targeted by rogue traders. If you see indications that the person is a victim of criminal activity such as cold-calling, ask them about it and if necessary contact Citizens Advice.

In urgent situations where you think a customer might be at risk, do not hesitate to contact the police.

By looking out for vulnerable members of the community, Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Checked scheme members can do their bit to stamp out rogue traders who don’t play by the rules, give their own business a boost, and make Kent a better place to live and work for everyone.

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This resource is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.