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The Scope of a Trading Standards Investigation


February 25, 2019 ( Newswire) Trading Standards impose a broad prohibition against any and all illegal business and commercial practices. This regulation empowers consumers to act against supposed misleading trading practices. Some typical examples of complaints that fall in this category include false claims about a product or aggressive marketing strategies that result in deceptive actions by the seller.

The law behind the regulation

Regulations imposed by Trading Standards are based on The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The provision in itself is far-reaching, which means that it primarily confirms that traders are not supposed to engage in unfair practices. The regulation is deliberately broad so that it can accommodate future offences which were not otherwise exhaustively put in detail.

It is essential to understand that a Trading Standards investigation into unfair business practices differs from other types of claims such as those related to personal injuries resulting from defective products or faulty services. There are some instances when drawing the line becomes vague, which is why it is vital to seek legal advice to proceed with the most appropriate action based on the merits of the case.

To be more specific, the Trading Standard's scope of responsibility includes the following:

  • Product descriptions. Ensure that goods and services do not have false information, or that professionals like plumbers do not misrepresent themselves in terms of licensing and accreditation.
  • Prices. Trading Standards monitor product prices to make sure that commodity prices are inclusive of all applicable charges and rates such as VAT.
  • Safety. Monitor and answer complaints related to product safety.
  • Intellectual property. Investigate reports about counterfeit products and confiscate those circulating in the market.
  • Selling to under-age consumers. To catch businesses that sell prohibited products like cigarettes and alcohol to minors, Trading Standards may employ volunteers for testing.
  • Weights and measures. Monitoring of fuel pumps and supermarket scales.
  • Food standards. Consumer reports on false product claims will be investigated. Related to this is the checking of supermarket shelves to confirm that expired products are taken out of circulation.
  • Animal health. Trading Standards may also act upon receiving reports of farmers mistreating or employing unethical practices to deal with animals.
  • Consumer credit. This pertains to checking credit practices such as correct interest rates representation, as well as terms and conditions that do not breach the law.

Officers from Trading Standards investigate complaints, but they are not empowered to make arrests. To a certain extent, these officers can confiscate and detain goods as part of the investigations process. Nonetheless, they can seek assistance from law enforcement if arrests are necessary for a suspected criminal offence.

What to do when subjected to a Trading Standards investigation

The legislation is complex and extensive which translates to lengthy and disruptive proceedings when a business is subject to investigation. Although in this case, consumer rights are paramount, the law also endeavours to protect the trader's rights.

It is vital to seek legal assistance as soon as possible to proceed with a formal process to minimise the adverse effect of the investigation on the business' operations.


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