Over the past 10 years, battery-powered mobility scooters have transformed and revolutionised the lives of many elderly and disabled people. As widespread as mobility scooters are on the pavements of the UK, gaining access to these vehicles of access, is not as easy as you might imagine. The mobility scooter should be the panacea to a major problem for many hundreds of thousands of elderly and infirm, but is it?
Mobility scooters are relatively expensive to buy, with the most rudimentary basic versions retailing at £400 and the more sophisticated, deluxe models costing multiple thousands of pounds. As with buying a car, the purchaser needs to shop around and test drive a range of mobility scooters but showrooms are dispersed far and wide and potential customers are, by definition, less mobile.
The only viable alternatives are online mobility scooter retailers or those mobility scooter distributors that offer to bring a demonstration model to your door. Unfortunately these options can present their own unique set of problems as highlighted recently by the Office of Fair Trading ( OFT ), when it ruled that Roma, a mobility scooter retailer based in Bridgend, had entered an agreement with six online retailers across the UK that prevented them from selling its scooters on-line, or advertising its prices.
The OFT found that such practices limited choice and obstructed customers from comparing prices. This is part of an on-going investigation the OFT has been running for four years scrutinising the marketing and pricing of mobility scooters, which has uncovered anomalies like a price differential of £3,000 for the same model of mobility scooter. Meanwhile to exacerbate problems further, Which? magazine has recently uncovered many cases of pressure selling.
What the OFT has uncovered is that much of the mobility scooter marketing is exploitative and manipulative ( ie prices only on application ) and clearly some unscrupulous companies are taking advantage of those most vulnerable in our society – the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. The answer short term to this problem, where possible, is for relatives and friends to support mobility scooter users in the buying process and to research and vet mobility scooter retailers in the same way you would a car dealer in order to ascertain the legitimate companies from the cowboy operators.