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Eight underhand sales techniques to watch out for and how to avoid them

How to avoid dishonest and unethical sales techniques

Unfortunately, dishonest and unethical selling tactics – known as ‘aggressive selling’ – that target consumers of healthcare and assistive technology products are nothing new. Used to pressure and trick you into buying products you may not want or need, these unsavoury practices can catch even the best of us out.

To help ensure you or your loved ones do not fall foul of these misleading selling techniques, we have compiled a list of eight underhand selling techniques to watch out for when purchasing your next healthcare and assistive technologies product or service, and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Overstaying their welcome

It can be unsettling to have a salesperson in your home for an unwarranted amount of time, attempting to sell a product or service. It can be even more disconcerting if the salesperson refuses or finds excuses not to, leave until you have made a purchase. This scenario can lead consumers to make an unwanted purchase just so that the salesperson will leave.

How to avoid red flag 1: To avoid this, members of the BHTA are required as part of our Code of Practice to abide to strict rules regarding selling in consumers’ homes, including aiming to conclude an assessment or sale within three hours (except in exceptional circumstances) and always complying with a customer’s request that they leave.

2. Objecting to having a relative, friend or advisor/carer involved

For shifty salespeople undertaking prohibited sales practices, the last thing they want is for you to have another person involved in the buying process who may stop their actions. If you or a loved one wants to have another person involved and the salesperson is attempting to dissuade you, this is an immediate red flag.

How to avoid red flag 2: As part of the BHTA’s Code of Practice, members are informed that they should not object to the customer having a relative, friend or other advisor / carer with them when the salesperson / assessor visits. In certain circumstances this should be encouraged (for example if it is known that the customer has poor eyesight or that they struggle with paperwork).

3. A price too good to be true

This practice can see the true price of a product being misled by you. A common scenario is a salesperson suggesting a high initial price, immediately followed by the offer of a discount – often, this may include a telephone call to the ‘manager’ to agree on the price reduction. Alternatively, a company may advertise a product as reduced or in the sale when it has never been available at the stated ‘original price’.

This can unfairly warp your perception of the actual price of a product, suggesting you are getting a great deal when the actual price of the product is lower.

4. An extremely time-limited discount

Often used in conjunction with practice two, this tactic sees unscrupulous salespeople putting unfair time limitations on ‘special’ prices to pressure consumers into making a rushed buying decision. An example is the offer of a discount on the condition that you agree to the sale that day.

5. Not providing all information upfront

Another deceptive tactic that can catch you out is a salesperson withholding price information until the end of a sales discussion. Again, this can be used in conjunction with practices three and four to mislead and pressure you into making a decision that may not be right for you.

How to avoid red flags 3, 4 and 5: This information must be provided in advance of the visit unless this is not feasible for practical reasons (for example if a visit is to be conducted the same day). Prices, pricing examples or price explanations should be given on websites, to enable customers who have internet access to gain an understanding of these in advance of the visit. This information must be provided in advance of the visit unless this is not feasible for practical reasons (for example if a visit is to be conducted the same day). Prices, pricing examples or price explanations should be given on websites, to enable customers who have internet access to gain an understanding of these in advance of the visit. Also, the BHTA Code of Practice requires all verbal claims or promises made by the salesperson must be put in writing, either on the contract, or on a separate form.

6. False claims of ‘limited availability’

Some companies may attempt to mislead you regarding the availability of a product, falsely stating that a product is only available for a very limited time in order to prompt you into making an immediate decision.

7. Misrepresenting products or prices

Misrepresentation of a product or service can come in many guises. It may include providing you with the wrong information about a product or service, giving you the wrong advice about what product would be best for you, or even wrongly telling you that you need to buy extra things to make the most of your product.

8. Hidden, unclear or unfair contractual terms and conditions

Ensuring the company you are buying from has clear and transparent terms and conditions is important before purchasing products or services. This is particularly important before entering into a contract to buy products that may be personalised or bespoke, impacting your rights to cancel once entering into an agreement.

Red flags to be aware of relating to terms and conditions includes fees or charges hidden in the small print, disproportionate early termination charges, or elements that attempt to infringe or constrain your legal rights.

How to avoid red flag 8: Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 make it easier to challenge hidden fees and charges, however, you can avoid unnecessary disputes and stress by using BHTA members. Under our Code of Practice, BHTA must ensure their terms and conditions of contract are available in writing and must be legible, comprehensive, written in plain language, and conform to the regulatory requirements. Also, if you indicate that you have poor eyesight or are confused by paperwork, BHTA members must go through the paperwork with you, and should provide a version in large print, Braille, or audio format must be provided if requested, within a reasonable timescale. Importantly, when buying from a BHTA members, the company is required to inform you when a product will need to be modified in a way that will class it as ‘bespoke’ and notify you in writing of changes to terms and conditions.

As you can see, the selling tactics above are all designed to pile on the pressure and force you into a sale that you might not be completely happy with.

The BHTA is here to help you buy healthcare and assistive technology products and services safely and securely. We protect against underhand selling practices.

As a membership organisation, we represent over 400 companies across the healthcare and assistive technology sector, who have voluntarily chosen to sign up to our Chartered Trading Standards Institute approved Code of Practice. Our code requires companies to go above and beyond their legal requirements, and members choose to hold themselves to these higher standards because of their dedication to customer service.

By working with, or buying from, one of our members, you can expect to never have aggressive and misleading sales tactics used against you. Our members are trustworthy and ethical companies, that will always go the extra mile for you. 

In the unlikely event that you believe a BHTA-accredited member has used any of the above against you, you can report them to us and we have the power to investigate and hold them to account. We act as a consumer protection body, achieving a free and fair result for you.

So if you’re looking for healthcare and assistive technology solutions, make sure to look for the logo and choose a BHTA-accredited company for invaluable peace of mind that the company is reputable and responsible. Plus, you’ll get that extra layer of consumer protection.