Everyone agrees that the ratings system needs an overhaul - even the government. It is going to look at the frequency of reviews. Unfortunately, the minute it is mentioned that an already complicated system might undergo change, it gives the cowboys another excuse to ride into town.

Charan Singh rang from Ferndale News in Swindon. The family run a newsagent’s shop and pay virtually no rates. But Charan took a call from a rep with a ratings consultancy who said the law was going to change in a year’s time and asked if he would be happy to receive “information”.

It was sent recorded delivery and, unfortunately, Charan signed for it, but then ignored its contents which comprised a contract with a clause that said if they hadn’t heard back within the seven days’ cooling off, they would assume he had accepted. Their next move was a bill for £399.

Charan disputed this and got a claim for £590 for court fees/solicitor and so on. He thinks the piece of paper they sent him is bogus and so did Citizens’ Advice and the solicitor he saw - as there was no mention of a court date or place on the bit of paper.

He contacted the council, which said they would not be reviewing his rates for another three years anyway.

Charan has now reported the company to his Trading Standards office and to the Financial Conduct Authority. He told the rep this a few days ago when he got another call chasing this ‘debt’ and the guy got quite abusive. Claimed he was the specialist and the council was wrong!