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Rogue Traders investigates plumber with CIPHE help
Published:  13 September, 2011

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering has helped BBC's Watchdog investigate a plumbing firm that has received many complaints from customers.

The investigation was screened on 8th September after Watchdog was contacted by "a number of customers" about the "high charges and poor work" carried out by Express Plumbing Ltd.

One customer said he had received a £1,406.60 bill for the replacement of two parts on his boiler.

During the show presenters called Express Plumbing Ltd out to three different scenarios, then secretly filmed the plumber as they worked.

The plumber called himself both Sam and Tony on different occasions, but was in fact company director Mohammed Shamrez. The footage showed Shamrez, who charged up to £110 per half hour for the call outs, on his phone and iPad, sitting with his head in his hands, spitting on the floor, making clinking noises with tools and doing 'kung fu' style moves while he was allegedly working. The programme also said he replaced parts that weren't faulty.

On one occasion, a new leak was discovered after Shamrez had fixed the initial problem, despite charging £700.97 for the work. Five other plumbers stated it should have cost about £82.80. During the final call out, Watchdog has said Shamrez left the property at risk of flooding after he had finished.

When the show confronted Shamrez he denied everything, including the fact that he called himself Tony, as well as Sam.

In July, Bedfordshire on Sunday reported on a complaint to Trading Standards at Bedford Borough Council about the company. In the same month, it revealed the case of Jirina Sedova, 26, of London Road, Bedford, who was furious after Express Plumbing Ltd charged her £204 for five minutes work.

Mrs Sedova, who had to replace her boiler after the visit, said: "He didn't even touch the boiler and it cost me £200. He just said you have to get rid of it. I went to the head office and nobody answered the door."

Danny Davis, principal technical officer with the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering, appeared on the show to give advice.

“Plumbers like this give the industry a bad name but it’s important for members of the public to realise what can go wrong if they don’t hire the right sort of person," said Davis. "Many plumbers are well-qualified professionals but sometimes people need help finding a good one, which is a big part of what the CIPHE do.

“I was really shocked by what I saw taking part in the Watchdog show. Working with CIPHE I’ve heard a lot of bad stories about rogue plumbers but seeing it with my own eyes was incredible. I hope that everyone who saw it will realise that they need to take care when hiring a plumber and that it’s okay to get a few quotes before they commit.”

Express Plumbing Ltd had since written to Watchdog to say he knew he was being filmed, and to deny that Shamrez left a leak at the second property or replaced parts unnecessarily. The company admitted their charges were "a little more expensive than your local plumber", but said that they spend thousands on advertising, that all their engineers have an ipad and that they also try to get an engineer out within one or two hours, so say they are providing a "very specialist service".

More about the investigation can be read at the BBC's Rogue Traders blog.