French renovation firms invented ‘norms’ to con homeowners into work

Victims lost an average of €8,000 but some lost much more

A view of a man with a high-vis jacket on, writing on a form on a clipboard, in a house
The ‘sales teams’ convinced vulnerable homeowners that expensive work was needed on their house to meet new ‘norms’ that did not really exist
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Two renovation companies in France invented new construction ‘norms’ and then convinced homeowners that work was needed on their properties in order to comply, it has emerged.

Managers at the firms were placed in police custody in connection with alleged fraudulent commercial practices on January 17.

More than €800,000 has been seized from the bank accounts of suspected individuals and companies, as well as four cars.

Investigations have revealed that the companies, based in Marseille, invented new construction norms and convinced people - usually elderly and vulnerable people - that they needed work on their homes in order to be legally compliant with a new ‘database’.

In reality, no such new norms or database updates exist and the work was unnecessary.

‘Preferential price’

The Marseille prosecutor said in a statement: “Sales representatives from these companies, who claimed that new standards were coming into force and that a national database of houses over 10 years old was being updated, although in reality this database did not exist”.

The sales agents offered homeowners “a free inspection of their home, at the end of which they announced that work was urgently needed to preserve the integrity of the building”.

They convinced the homeowner to sign up for the work by offering them a ‘preferential price’ in return for immediate payment or signing up for a direct debit, the prosecutor added.

Homeowners - who were deprived of their right to a ‘cooling off period’ by signing a waiver in return for the discount - were conned out of an average of €8,000 for unnecessary work. Some spent “tens of thousands of euros”, the prosecutor added.

The suspects have been released pending the continued investigation.

In the meantime, the public prosecutor advised people who believe they have been victims of similar practices - or approached by individuals offering similar schemes, even if they did not sign up - to report them on the government’s SignalConso platform (which has an English language option).

The SignalConso platform also has a related smartphone app, which launched in March last year (2023), in a bid to make it even easier to report fraud.

The investigation into the two firms was conducted by the Marseille inter-ministerial group and the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control. Also investigating were the Bouches-du-Rhône Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations, and the digital investigations unit of the National Investigation Service.

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