In many countries around the world locksmiths are required to be licensed. This is not the case in the UK. There are no specific regulations for locksmiths other than trading standards which apply to all businesses selling a product or service. This means that anyone is free to buy some lock picking tools off the internet and set themselves up as a ‘locksmith’. As an experienced Edinburgh locksmith, I believe this is not good for the industry and not good for customers. Here are my reasons.
Reasons locksmiths should be licensed
- Anyone regardless of background, training and experience can turn up at your door claiming to be an expert locksmith. The good reputation of genuine hardworking experienced locksmiths can quickly be tarnished by the poor skills or extortionate prices charged by a few poorly trained, inexperienced or rogue, ‘fly by night’ locksmiths.
- The difference between a good locksmith and a bad one can be down to lack of experience. Locksmith training courses are a good way to learn basic locksmith skills, but nothing beats on the job experience. It is completely unrealistic to expect someone to be a fully accomplished locksmith after completing a 2 day course. It can take an apprentice locksmith between one and two years to learn even the most basic of locksmith skills. Some locks can be very tricky to deal with and someone with little experience is highly likely to cause unnecessary damage to your lock, door or both. An experienced locksmith should have developed good non-destructive emergency entry skills.
- Many new locksmiths find it extremely difficult to find work. Being a locksmith is very competitive particularly in large cities like Edinburgh. Because of this, many start their career working for the big National locksmith companies. These large companies find them work in their area and then take a large cut of every job that they provide. This means that when you call a large national locksmith company you are more likely to get an inexperienced locksmith arriving at your door. You will have absolutely no idea how skilled or competent they are. These locksmiths will also charge much higher prices than local locksmiths. Higher prices are not charged because they use better parts or provide a better service. Instead it is because the prices they charge need to cover the cut to the National locksmith company in addition to their own labour and parts.
- Many rogue locksmiths use Google ads to advertise their business. By paying for these ads their business appears at the top of the page when you search on Google for a locksmith. Although there is nothing wrong with this and many good locksmiths also advertise this way, it is an easy way for poor or rogue locksmiths to disguise their lack of skills and experience.
As things stand it is almost impossible to tell if someone is a genuine locksmith or has the right level of skills to do a good job. At the moment, probably the best way of deciding is either word of mouth recommendations or checking customer reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp etc.
If locksmiths were regulated it would allow minimum standards to be set. For example, Ireland has just introduced a locksmith licence. All locksmiths must undergo full police background checks, revenue compliance and be audited annually to show evidence of training and upskilling. In addition, it is now an offence in Ireland for a locksmith to fit, maintain or change a lock without a licence. If caught doing so they face a fine of €5000. It is hoped that these new measures will prevent fly by night locksmith companies working illegally.
If introduced here, these measures might not stop all rogue locksmiths but it would help weed out some of the very worst offenders. It would also raise standards across the whole of the industry and offer a much greater level of protection for customers.