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Nine top tips for buying mobility and independent living aids safely

Man in wheelchair speaking to a woman with another woman next to him

The right mobility and independent living product can transform your life, giving you back your mobility and independence. Regaining your freedom and confidence is priceless, however, mobility aids can be costly and buying the wrong product can actually be harmful, rather than helpful.

With so many choices of products and places to buy them, you need to make sure that you’re buying the right product for your needs. Unfortunately, there are also some less than honest sellers who may not have your best interests at heart.

So, how can you ensure you’re buying mobility and independent living products safely?

To help make sure you or a loved one is getting the correct product, the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has compiled nine top tips to follow when buying mobility aids, so you know you’re in safe hands.

1. Be sure the company you’re looking to buy from has clear, upfront pricing

Pricing can vary significantly between retailers, but the full cost of the product (including any aftercare service) should be made clear to you from the start. They shouldn’t wait until the end of your discussion to let you know the price. The salesperson you speak to should make you aware of any extra costs and give you an overall quote.

If a seller offers a large discount only available if you buy on the same day, this is known as pressure selling, and you’re best to avoid this retailer.  

2. Check the terms and conditions

They should be clear, easy to read and set out in plain terms. There shouldn’t be any important information, especially about additional fees, hidden in the small print.

If you are offered any extras or discounts, make sure this is written down on your quotation and that you’re able to go away, read the contract in your own time and think about it.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of an assessment

You should always expect to have a full assessment where your ability, well-being, environment, and activities may have an effect on the safe use and suitability of a product. This is particularly the case relating to powered mobility aids, such as mobility scooters and powerchairs.

The company that you’re looking to buy from should be making sure the product is suitable for you and the environment you’ll be using it in (i.e. your home). They’ll need to check the size, weight and manoeuvrability of the product, amongst other things. 

The retailer you’re looking to buy from should take great care to make sure the product is appropriate to meet your needs.

4. Try before you buy

Make sure you’re trying out different versions of the product you need, to see which one is most suitable for you. The company that you’re buying from should be more than happy to demonstrate the product for you, how it works and let you have a go! Always ensure the product you have demonstrated is the same one you’ll actually be purchasing.

5. Have a friend or relative with you

Whether you are having a home demonstration or visiting a company’s showroom, you don’t need to go alone – take a trusted friend or family member with you.

Having someone there that you trust will give you more confidence and they may even ask a question that you hadn’t thought of. They’ll also be an extra pair of eyes to look over any contracts and review the small print that we mentioned above.  

Also, with a friend or relative there, unscrupulous salespeople are far less likely to try any underhand sales techniques, such as the tactics we urge you to watch out for in our helpful Eight underhand sales techniques to watch out for in 2022 blog.  

6. Don’t rush into anything

You can shop around to make sure that you buy the best product for you and your needs.

Don’t be pressured into buying the first product you see. As mentioned above, you need to try out different versions of the product you are going to buy. Have a look at a few, and get quotes for each. Don’t commit to a purchase until you’re happy you’ve found the product for you.

7. Visit events such as Naidex

What better way to shop, than with a wide variety of products all in one place?

There are different consumer exhibitions throughout the year, specifically set up so that you can see and compare new products on the market. You’ll be able to speak to the retailer or manufacturer directly, gather all of the information you need, and literally compare products side by side.

You may even be able to speak to a current user of the mobility and independent living aid, to get an in-person review.

8. Don’t forget aftersales care and support

It can be difficult to ignore a low initial price when searching for a mobility aid, but it is also important to be sure that the company you are buying from can support you after you have purchased a product.

Your mobility aid may play a vital role in your ability to remain independent, so you should always consider what your needs may be after just purchasing your product. It is important to find a company that values aftersales care and support – particularly when it comes to powered mobility products.

It is always worth finding out what the company’s returns policy is, whether they can do repairs on and/or off-site, if they can carry out a regular service, and if they will provide you with a courtesy vehicle when yours is being repaired or serviced.

9. Look for the BHTA badge of trust

There is a quick and efficient way to ensure the company you choose to buy from has your best interests at heart – choose a BHTA member.

We only represent ethical and trustworthy companies that meet the strict requirements of our Code of Practice. It sets out rules that our members must follow, ensuring you are treated fairly and are only sold a product that is right for you.

Our code is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), and we regularly audit our members and conduct mystery shops to ensure they meet our high consumer standards.

Also, in the event a dispute does arise between you and a BHTA member, you can turn to us to help us resolve it fairly and independently.

Finding a BHTA member is easy – just look out for our BHTA badge proudly displayed on our members’ websites, shop fronts, vehicles, adverts and more. Or you can ask the company if they are a member and then check our member directory to verify if they are BHTA approved.

The BHTA is here to make sure you can buy healthcare and assistive technology products and services safely. We protect against underhand selling and business practices.

We represent over 400 companies across the healthcare and assistive technology sector, who have voluntarily chosen to sign up to our CTSI-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 choosing a BHTA member, 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-approved 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-approved company for invaluable peace of mind that the company is reputable and responsible. Plus, you’ll get that extra layer of consumer protection.

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