“Uplifting Experience ? ” 5

This is a continuation of a series of blogs about stairlifts.  For earlier blogs click on “UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE” in the TAG CLOUD.

My first enquiries through comparison websites and directly to manufacturers and suppliers like Age UK, turned up a distinct lack of purchasing information, particularly about costs.  My conversations with call centre staff were equally unforthcoming about costs and also made reference to dubious practices in the industry.  None of this was particularly reassuring.

When I looked down the Google list I saw an interesting reference to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).  I thought this might be a good place to point me in the right direction.

In 2010, the OFT was concerned about the increasing number of complaints Trading Standards officers were receiving about the sale of mobility aids including stairlifts.  The total had reached 4,000 at that time.  The OFT commissioned a market study to assess the scale of the problem and this was carried out in the early part of 2011.  The study was produced by SPA Future Thinking and published in August 2011.  It’s 98 pages long and I doubt would be read by many elderly people in their search for any mobility equipment, nonetheless, it raises some very disturbing questions.

  • 22% of purchasers had no previous experience of buying
  • 70% had no expert advice
  • 30% of purchasers are over 75 years old
  • Half had no comparison advice before purchasing:-

“If an in-home salesperson (surveyor) convinced them that mobility aids would meet their needs, they simply bought without investigation of other suppliers.”

  • There was evidence that some suppliers had a policy of not giving any indication of costs over the phone (which makes comparison of prices difficult).  It also leaves sales reps (surveyors) to claim they are giving a discount.

In September 2011, the OFT issued a press release warning that people may be paying too much for mobility aids and secondly that there was evidence of high pressure and misleading sales practices when buying this equipment at home.  They were concerned that half of the customers were not shopping around and so could be paying too much.  They also called for businesses to supply actual prices.

It’s evident from my own earlier experiences that by June 2012 nothing has changed.  In spite of this, the OFT concluded that it was not appropriate to make a market investigation referral to the Competition Commission.

This all suggests that elderly people can be very vulnerable to the sharp practices of some suppliers and manufacturers of mobility equipment.  Stairlifts are not an inexpensive item and therefore it is difficult to see how elderly people can be reassured they are receiving value for money.

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5 Responses to “Uplifting Experience ? ” 5

  1. Maureen o'Neill says:

    John, I would like to congratulate you for the articles on stair lifts As I said in reply to your first article they were/are very expensive. I know several people who have had to buy lifts that went round a bend and they have nearly all had problems with this.
    It is very disturbing that information and advice is not available to elderly people – one would hope that help could be given by the OTT’s who hand out raised toilet seats and other aids to help those recuperating after an operation.but this is not their department of course.
    I have no doubt that we pay too much for mobility aids – even with the vat taken off and I do have friends who are in the same position as I was some years ago. You are not encouraged to buy second hand stair lifts (as I did) due to Health and safety and all sorts of horrific stories are told by the sellers but as I said , by being careful they can last a long time.
    I hope your blog produces some excellent results.
    Back in the 70’s my friend tried to return a Walker she had bought for her mother and her mother died before it had even been unwrapped.She was told at the mobility shop – we are only interested in the living and can’t help you .We don’t take things back!! I think things might have changed since then but reading your blogs may be profit is the thing that disability producers want. Information is so important to the elderly. It seems a bit like buying double glazing- problematic.

    • john graham says:

      Thanks for the extra information Maureen. It all builds up a picture which suggests that elderly people should be very careful when purchasing any type of mobility aid.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Evening!
    I have been reading your stairlift blog and you have obviously done a lot of research into the matter. I actually work for a leading stairlift company (won’t mention who for obvious reasons) and I would like to clear up a few things for you to make it easier for those buying! Just to put you at ease I consider myself to be an expert in the stairlift market, knowing how companies work, the products they offer and the way they sell.

    1. Manufacturers of stairlifts are not cheaper than the local shops. Local shops that buy through trade buy lots of stairlifts in bulk and sell on with (in most cases) poor aftercare. With manufacturers you pay more but you are provided with higher quality aftercare.

    2. There is a set price structure for buying stairlifts, however, this can be changed at the salesman’s discretion dependent on what the client says they can afford.
    For example; this is how you get a high quote for a stairlift “I need a stairlift ASAP!!!” – “okay madam, look at this price, this is the cost, how would you like to pay your deposit?”.
    This is how you pay less: “I’m shopping around, in no rush and I have a solid budget” – “okay madam, look at this price, this is what the cost should be however if I am able to reduce this price would you be interested?”.
    Simple.

    3. Stairlifts are made to be sold once, do not buy them 2nd hand. The firms that fit 2nd hand stairlifts are a joke, they fit them incorrectly and sell them for ridiculous prices. Another problem with buying 2nd hand is since you would have never even seen a stairlift before you will have no idea of what you are actually getting for your money!!!!

    4. Age UK stairlifts are supplied by Handicare, a Norwegian company I believe. Handicare stairlifts recently bought out Minivator, the firm that supplied AgeUK with stairlifts previously. Handicare stairlifts are now made mostly in Shanghai, China and since this happened the build quality has been reduced massively.

    If you have further questions about stairlifts or the market please e-mail me: stairliftinsider@gmail.com

  3. We always tell any people that come to us to NOT buy their stairlifts secondhand!

  4. Emma says:

    I believe all companies should be upfront about costs to customers! Many companies see the elderly as an easy target.

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