Council chiefs in St Helens are warning businesses to be on their guard after reports of firms being offered deals to secure business rate refunds.
While many legitimate companies specialise in appealing against rate valuations, some are reluctant to spell out their terms and conditions when cold calling, town hall bosses say.
Coun Jeff Fletcher, who as the council’s cabinet member for finance is partly responsible for setting business rates, is one person who was approached by a firm offering assistance in securing a rebate.
He said: “Anyone with a business can appeal against their rateable value using the Valuation Office Agency website (www.voa.gov.uk) And it’s completely free.
“But if anyone is tempted to employ a rating agent they should always check that they are reputable and belong to a professional body - before they sign any contract.
“Reputable agents will inspect your property and/or see the accounts before they estimate any saving they think they can make for you.
“And it’s worth bearing in mind that any change in the rateable value may not make a difference to the amount you pay at the end of the day.
“If you are approached by someone offering to appeal on your behalf, be on your guard. There are some disreputable companies who will cold call you by phone, email or in person offering you substantial savings on your bill and possibly demanding an upfront fee.”
Local businessmen and women who are approached should ask detailed questions about the company’s charges, and whether they belong to a professional body.