Competence checks are crucial in locksmith industry says expert

Dr Steffan George, managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association and Sold Secure calls for competence checks to rid the industry of rogue traders.

We are currently working on a campaign to highlight the urgent need for industry regulation and a harder line on locksmiths who rip-off consumers. The spiralling number of rogue tradespeople operating across the country is putting the safety
of members of the public at risk. 

Dr Steffan George

Our industry, outside of the MLA’s approved company scheme, remains completely unregulated. This lack of regulation means anyone can advertise, trade, buy locksmith tools and call themselves a locksmith, with little or no training, and without providing proof of competence. It means householders calling out a locksmith – who they have often found via an online advertisement – are placing their security with someone who might not only be incompetent, but who may not have had to pass any criminal record checks.

We recently published research, based on feedback from more than 100 of our members across England, which shows a soaring number of cases where householders have fallen victim to a bogus locksmith. Over the past year, two thirds of our largest members have been called to a job due to a rogue locksmith. We receive calls every day from members of the public who have been hoodwinked by unscrupulous locksmiths. This has placed them at considerable risk and also left them often hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds out of pocket. The issue has received widespread interest in the national media, including most recently being the lead story on BBC One’s Rip Off Britain.

We believe this situation needs to be addressed urgently. The MLA is calling on government departments to discuss how the matter might be addressed to ensure all locksmiths are vetted, inspected and competent in order to trade. 

The MLA’s existing Approved Company Licensing Scheme means that locksmiths found on www.locksmiths.co.uk are vetted (we are included in the exceptions order for the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974), regularly inspected and have passed an exam to prove their competence. However, because the wider industry is unregulated, many are not vetted and to this end we are keen to discuss this issue and our licensing scheme to see how it could help protect the general public. Our call is supported by Neighbourhood Watch Network,the Association of British Insurers and Secured by Design. 

It’s crucial to use specialists rather than generalists

The problem is compounded by the propensity of call centres and subcontracting outfits claiming to be local locksmiths who aren’t locksmiths at all. They are simply marketing platforms charging handsomely for their services, giving the locksmith they end up using, who in some cases could be anyone, a small percentage of the charge and leaving the end user with an inflated bill to pay.

It’s crucial to use specialists rather than generalists. Master locksmiths are specialists. Some general facility management type companies will take on locksmith work, but they lack the specialist knowledge that vetted, inspected and qualified locksmiths have. Jobs tend to get done more slowly and at greater expense. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, as specialists in your own area, that using a highly-trained expert rather than a generalist is always the best option.

In the same way that the MLA believes the approval and accreditation of locksmith companies is important, the MLA also believes in the approval and certification of security products. In fact, it put its money where its mouth is back 1999 when it purchased Sold Secure, a company formed by Essex and Northumbria police to provide independent verification of the security of products. The MLA has spent a lot of time and effort in building Sold Secure into one of the leading test and certification agencies for security products in the UK. It was the first to generate a standard to specifically address the issue of lock snapping (SS312 Diamond) and has over 20 different standards aimed at specific market segments. If you’re selling security hardware then it’s worth checking if it’s Sold Secure approved. More information is available at www.soldsecure.com.

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