HOUSEHOLDERS are being warned to be wary of conmen when buying solid fuel.

Over recent years, Durham County Council's consumer services department has received complaints and detected a number of solid fuel traders supplying short weight.

Philip Holman, head of consumer services, said people should be cautious when choosing a supplier and buy only from those who are well established, have properly marked vehicles, are easily located, and are members of the Approved Coal Merchants Scheme.

He said: "Our officers will investigate complaints and, in addition, we will be carrying out routine spot checks on coal yards and solid fuel delivery vehicles in the county.

"We have written to over 40 local traders reminding them of their obligations under current weights and measures law. Although the vast majority of suppliers are reputable traders, it is an area that can attract a rogue element who rip people off, normally by selling short weight fuel.

"They take advantage of the fact that it's not easy for a customer to check whether they have received the correct amount."

Anyone who believes they have received short weights can call consumer services on (0191) 383 3589.