Elderly 'ripped off' in mobility scooter market
Summary: Elderly and disabled people who rely on mobility scooters to get around run the risk of being “ripped off” by retailers charging what they can get away with, pensioners groups are warning.
With prices for some of the electric mobility vehicles as high as £6,800 there are fears disabled and elderly users are being treated as a captive market by some unscrupulous sellers.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC), one of Britain’s largest lobby groups for the elderly, has accused retailers of “exploiting” their position and taking advantage of the lack of regulation for mobility scooters.
Neil Duncan-Jordan, spokesman for the NPC, said: “Retailers are charging what they think they can get away with. Because there is such a growing demand for mobility scooters some retailers think they can exploit the market.”
The NPC said it is also concerned about the lack of regulation or basic safety standards in the mobility scooter market, with users allowed to drive them without a licence and a growing market in potentially dangerous second-hand models.
The price of mobility scooters ranges dramatically from under £1,000 for a basic model to as much as £6,799 for one with a full cover and glass screen. Although large discounts are available online, bringing the cost down by as much as 50 per cent, people who buy from a website are frequently left to assemble the scooters themselves on delivery.
The Officer of Fair Trading (OFT) heavily criticised two of the country’s largest mobility scooter retailers for their sales practices last year.
The regulator found that Pride Mobility, in Bicester, Oxfordshire had "infringed competition law" and restricted consumers' ability to get value for money and that Roma Medical Aids had breached competition law by preventing online retailers from selling its scooters or even advertising their prices on the web.
An earlier investigation of the entire mobility market by the OFT found that prices for mobility scooters could vary in price by as much as £3,000.
Doug Somerset, 63, a retired engineer from Bexleyheath, who has relied on a wheelchair and mobility scooter for 20- years, said: “There is so much money to be made by retailers on disability products and I’m convinced mobility scooters are being overpriced by a huge margin. I paid £939 for my Prorider Road King and it’s very good.
"But I’ve seen very similar models sold for £2,500 and more. Disabled people and pensioners are being used as a licence to print money by some retailers.”
Mr Somerset added: “Many of these mobility scooters are pretty poorly made, with cheap components and the mark-up is astonishing. In some cases people are simply being ripped off. Something needs to be done about it.”
RICA, a charity which carries out consumer research for the disabled and elderly and publishes independent information on 342 scooters to help consumers choose, said there was “an issue” with the pricing of mobility scooters, as well as poor after sales service.
Caroline Jacobs, Co-Director of Rica said: “It’s extremely difficult for consumers to know how much to pay for a mobility scooter. There are huge variations in price. Whilst manufacturers’ recommended retail prices (RRPs) are widely published; they don’t accurately reflect sales prices which are often much lower. We advise people to shop around and look carefully at what is included in the price, particularly in terms of an assessment, warranty, servicing, delivery and assembly.”
Roma Medical Aids said it had always put the interests of its customers first, adding that it recommended that users choose a mobility scooter based on their needs and not simply on the cheapest price.
Source The Telegraph
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