The owner of the Wood Burning Stove shop shelled out money for a service she didn't receive
A businesswoman who fell foul of a scam in which she was promised thousands of pounds of savings on her business rates in Farnborough is warning others to be on their guard.
Jean West, who runs the Wood Burning Stove Shop in Camp Road with business partner James Grainger, received a string of telephone calls offering her the chance to check if she was qualified for a reduction in the rateable value of her business premises.
However, after shelling out £834 for the checks to be carried out in April, Mrs West chased up the progress this month only to find the company appeared to have vanished.
“Myself and other businesses in the area were inundated with cold calls by surveyor companies,” she said.
“I spoke to a lady by the name of Anne who told me the checks were completely free of charge.
“I accepted the offer and a guy came around and said that we were entitled to a rebate from Rushmoor Borough Council.
“He said to contact the valuation office, which would take about two weeks, and then it was up to us whether we wanted to appeal.
“He sounded very logical and genuine and that was one of the reasons we carried on.”
The Valuation Office wrote to her saying an appeal was possible, and a potential saving of £4,000 could be made if successful.
She then paid £834 to the rogue company to co-ordinate her appeal.
But four months on and with no word about the appeal, Mrs West became suspicious and called the number that had contacted her in the first place.
The only sound on the other end of the line was a message to say the company could no longer be contacted.
Companies House, however, informed Mrs West that the company was still trading.
Searching for answers, she called her son, who happens to be a chartered surveyor.
“He told me off, asking why I didn’t check they were registered with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors,” she said.
“He couldn't believe I was so naive. It’s a costly learning curve.”
Mrs West has since researched the company and found that others have experienced the same problems.
The Wood Burning Stove Shop business has had a showroom in its current location for a year after being in Lynchford Road for two years previously.
A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council Trading Standards said: “Our advice is that businesses should take extreme care should they be contacted by someone offering to reduce their business rates as there are bogus ‘rate reduction’ firms who are targeting small businesses.
“In return for a large fee they claim they can get rates reduced, but in reality the fee is very likely to be higher than the actual reduction and there is no guarantee of success.”
For more information, and advice on what to do if a business rateable value might be incorrect, visit the Valuation Office website