Trading Standards Consumer Advice
Most people think of Trading Standards when they have a problem with faulty goods or an issue regarding a service, whether you have a problem with some work done on a car or some building work that has gone wrong. Some years ago central government set up the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline to be the first point of contact for all consumer complaints.
The Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues including faulty and dangerous goods or services. The Service will discuss your issue with you. They specialise in providing consumers with the practical advice they need to try to resolve their dispute and, if needed, can provide you with template letters to use.
Citizens Advice are also trained to identify any criminal offences that may have been committed by the business you are dealing with, for example, selling counterfeit goods or unsafe products. During your call to them they will take your contact information and pass the details through to Trading Standards, and this is the point at which we get involved. If the trading standards officer looking at your complaint needs to speak to you, to obtain further information, they will contact you directly.
If you would like to report an issue you are having with a business, whether that be a dispute with a builder, an eBay seller that has sold you fake goods or non delivery of some items you have ordered, please call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 (freephone number), you can complete their online complaint form or visit their website to read their helpful factsheets.
So what do trading standards do?
While we cannot help you to resolve your individual problem, we do have the power to enforce legislation relating to the supply of goods and services where an offence has been committed, for example, dangerous goods, fake products and misdescribed goods such as cars with altered mileage.
- We can take informal action on less serious cases - this would take the form of giving advice, guidance and education to traders who have broken the law and making sure they do not do it again.
- We can take formal action on the more serious cases. this could include prosecuting a trader in criminal court, issuing a caution, applying for an injunction. We can also issue statutory notices, enter premises and seize goods and/or documents.
- We carry out routine and intelligence led inspections, to ensure products (including food) are being sold safely and with accurate information, to allow the customer to make safe and informed choices about what they buy.
- Monitor and deal with animal health and welfare issues
There are some sources of information that you might find helpful.
Many people prefer not to be disturbed by people selling goods or services (such as roofing work, driveways, tree trimming and so on). If you would like to prevent these callers from knocking on your door you can put up a 'No Cold Calling Sticker'.
- You can ask for a sticker by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 (they will pass your name and address on to us so that we can send it to you.
- You can visit the Money Saving Expert website where you can download a trading standards sticker and print it out for yourself. This website also has some useful information about avoiding junk telephone calls and unwanted post.
- You can buy stickers from a number of online sellers, including sellers on eBay and Amazon
Scams have spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Prize draw letters telling you you have won a lottery that you have not entered are very common.
- Phonecalls from a criminal, trying to obtain your personal information by claiming to be from a trusted organisation.
- Phishing emails where the scammer tries to make you think that they are from a legitimate organisation. An example would be an email claiming to be HMRC needing your bank details for a rebate.
- Pension scams - where the fraudster disappears with your pension fund. The Pensions Regulator issues some helpful advice on this.
- Investment scams. We have heard from consumers who have responded to a friends' recommendation on social media and invested in an opportunity, only to find the friends account had been hacked. The victim then finds they have no contact details for the scammer in the UK and their money is gone.
Covid -19 has given the scammers an opportunity to take advantage of the fear and anxiety we may be feeling. Action Fraud have seen an increase in Covid related scams
Covid-19 financial support scams
- Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
- Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
- Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
- Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
- One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
- We have also heard of people being charged for using the NHS Test and Trace service - this is a free service so if you are asked for a fee, hang up.
- Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.
As time goes by the scams become more and more sophisticated so you need to protect yourself and your business to make sure you are not caught out.
There are many scams resources on-line that you might find interesting and will detail some useful steps you can take, to protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you or a family member has been the victim of a scam please report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service by calling 0808 223 1133.
Product Safety Information including recalls
- Product Recalls - A list of recent product recalls, including foods, published by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute
- Electrical Product Recalls - Information from Electrical Safety First concerning recalls of unsafe electrical goods
- Register your appliance - this website allows you to register your appliances and guarantee that you will be notified of any safety recalls
- Vehicle Recalls and mileage checks - this website allows you to enter a vehicle registration number and find any outstanding vehicle recalls and also look at the MOT history of the vehicle - if you notice the milage has been higher in the past, you may be looking at a 'clocked' car which has more wear and tear than you think. Don't buy it - report it to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline.
Further Consumer Advice Information
- Mailing Preference Service - To Help stop unwanted junk mail sign up to the Mailing Preference Service
- Telephone Preference Service - To help stop unwanted sales calls sign up to the Telephone Preference Service.
- Shopping on the Internet - Shopping on the internet is growing and now you can buy virtually anything online. Here are some simple steps you can take when shopping online to protect yourself, your card details and your identity.
- National Debtline - Provides free and impartial advice to people with debt problems they can be contacted on 0808 808 4000
- Stop Loan Sharks Project - A national scheme to assist the victims of illegal money lenders or loan sharks.
- Think Jessica - Scams Warning - Scammers try to make letters and emails look like important documents, hoping to trick you into sending them money or tell them personal information about themselves or family members.
- Investigatory Powers Tribunal - The IPT exists to investigate complaints about the potential conduct of various public bodies, in relation to you, your property or communications.
- Phishing - A method used by fraudsters to access valuable personal details such as usernames and passwords, advice from Action Fraud.
- Buying a used car - reduce the risk of buying a stolen vehicle.
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - this organisation regulates the conduct of over 56,000 financial companies, including insurers
- OFCOM - UK regulator for the communications industry including postal services, television, internet and phones etc
- OFGEM - UK regulator for the energy industry including gas and electricity suppliers
Last Updated: 21 October 2020