Gold for sale – what price your valuables?
Anyone reading the local papers during the last couple of years will have noticed a rise in the number of advertisements placed by traders wanting to buy gold, silver, medals and watches. A more recent development has seen these traders targeting specific parts of the Island using flyers to advertise events at short notice.
Many of these advertisements are placed by traders from outside the Isle of Man, typically from the UK or Ireland, and promote events to be held in church halls, community centres, hotels or public houses, at which they will buy gold, silver, medals and watches.
Traders like this who are not resident in the Island are called ‘non-resident chapmen’. They require a licence issued by the Office of Fair Trading before they can conduct business in the Island. The Office carries out checks on the traders to ensure that they are “fit and proper”.
Under the Chapmen’s Act 1971, any person found guilty of conducting business without the necessary licence can be imprisoned for up to six months or be fined up to £5,000 or both.
The Office of Fair Trading has issued a small number of licences to legitimate non-resident chapmen but is aware of others attempting to hold events at short notice without having obtained the necessary licence.
Traders who go door to door trying to buy gold, silver, medals, watches and other goods also require a licence issued by the Office of Fair Trading. This is the case whether or not they are resident in the Island.
The Office of Fair Trading maintains a register of licensed chapmen, both resident and non-resident, and urges the general public and anyone responsible for hiring out premises such as church halls, community centres, hotels and public houses to check with the Office to ensure that any chapman going door to door or wishing to hold an event has been issued with a licence.
Within the last few weeks, enforcement officers intervened to stop an event being held by an unlicensed trader at a community centre in the West of the Island.
There is an obvious risk that unlicensed chapmen choose not to apply for a licence because they would not pass the checks the Office carries out and are more likely to attempt to defraud customers by not offering fair prices for what may actually be very valuable personal property. These traders are not loveable rogues who buy and sell antiques and dodge the authorities. They may be part of an organised criminal network trying to take advantage of the high price of gold. If the market in gold became less attractive to them, they would simply move on to another scam.
Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, Bill Henderson MHK said
'No one should become involved with these traders unless they are satisfied that they have the necessary licence – otherwise you are quite likely to be “ripped off”. Even when dealing with a licensed trader anyone who has gold, silver, medals, watches or similar goods to sell should try and get another estimate of their value before committing themselves to a sale. It can be difficult for consumers to work out what is a fair price for their valuables. Local jewellers may be able to provide you with an estimate of the value of an item – so check with them first. Don’t opt for the quick cash fix, you may be in real danger of being substantially ripped off. Always double check.'