How to avoid being scammed by unscrupulous builders and repair people

scam builder

Repeated reports of phoney builders and emergency repair companies scamming unsuspecting members of the public out of hundreds and even thousands of euros have given rise to a French government guide on how to avoid this upsetting situation. Here’s what you need to know.  

A leak has sprung in the kitchen sink minutes before a party, the electricity has gone out in your home whilst the rest of the neighbourhood is fine, you’ve lost your keys and can’t get into the house… It could happen to anyone. So what do you do if and when a scenario like one of these crops up? Well, most of us will get on the phone to a professional and call them out to fix the problem.  

Often that’ll be the issue resolved and the case closed, but there are repair people out there that will use a customer’s distress to their advantage.  


Amid a growing number of complaints, the French government has decided to step in and the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention has published a series of recommendations so that everyone can protect themselves against malicious intent from these so-called pros. 


The advice recommends calling a few different repair people before making a choice. This may take a few extra minutes, but it does give consumers a chance to get together several quotes, which may vary wildly in price.

Builders and the like are obliged to give an estimate. This “devis” is only binding from the moment a customer signs to have the work done, not before. Asking a few pertinent questions, such as the difference between day and night rates in the case of an emergency call outs, could also clear up any misunderstandings before they happen.  

Additionally, online advertisers or those who put leaflets through the letterbox should also be avoided or vetted before trying them out.  

The guide also suggests asking friends, neighbours or even insurance companies for recommendations, so a list of reliable professionals is to hand when disaster strikes.  


Some professionals will try to “up-sell” clients, offering unnecessary services in addition to the problem at hand. Don’t agree to these add-ons straight away, and ask for a second opinion before committing.  

Always get a signed copy of any contract accompanied by the standard withdrawal form and don’t let repair people leave with replaced parts.  

Troubleshooters have an ‘obligation of result’, which means that the repair must be real and effective,” reads the government guide. “If they do not express any particular reservations, they therefore undertake to return the device to good working order. If the device has been repaired but still does not work, a new free repair should take place.” 


If there are difficulties that arise from a service, the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention is there to assist.  

They suggest trying to reach an amicable agreement first, but barring that, unhappy customers should submit a dispute to the civil courts. Some insurers offer legal advice, which can be a helpful tool, but if they do not, it is possible to ask a local legal advice centre. These are free and intended for use in exactly these scenarios.  

If the complaints are more serious in nature, such as verbal or physical attack, contact the police or gendarmerie immediately to lodge a complaint.  

Incidents can also be reported to the Signal.Conso website, after which companies may be asked to correct the problem or provide valid explanations to a higher authority.  

For more information, please click here


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Photo source: Kenny Eliason, Unsplash