It’s like clockwork. Business rates set to go up in April and the chancers come calling. Stephen Beard was the second retailer to call about the same firm in a month. Phoning from his Londis in Sheffield, he said that he couldn’t believe he actually fell for it. But the patter was that good.

The rep cold-called him and offered him a ‘special’ online rate of £475 to appeal his next rates bill.

Now, I must add at this point that Stephen hadn’t received his next rates bill and previously paid no rates, having qualified for rate relief.

No matter. He was assured that he’d be walloped next time and that it was far too complex to handle himself. He paid online.

Then he read my article (C-Store, March 2) where I featured Raja Razzaq and his business rates sharks. I didn’t name the rates company (it was the same one), because Raja had stopped the cheque he had written as he became suspicious.

So Stephen rang the company again and was once more reassured that it was far too hard for the DIY approach. Then he rang me and I said, why don’t you ask the valuation office agency it’s supposed to be quite easy to appeal. So he did that. And rang back to report that the VOA says “it’s not hard”.

Says Stephen: “The Sheffield site for the VOA has a warning about such companies.” In fact, the VOA’s main website contains lots of warnings and says that reputable agents will want to inspect your property and/or see the accounts before they estimate any saving they think they can make for you.

Now, this company is probably legal. But its selling tactics persuade people that they need to pay an outsider to appeal for them and this is not true.

If you have any doubts, call your own VOA or consult the free helpline at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on 0870 333 1600.