24th May 2018

Scammers in the summer

We explore the consumer protection issues that arise in the summer months


By Richard Young
Freelance writer for JTS
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One of the great traditions of the Great British summer is loading up the car and heading to the park, beach or countryside in search of a fun-packed event that will provide a diverting excursion for the whole family. But just as summer events offer plenty of opportunities for entertainment and enjoyment, they also present fraudsters and rogue traders with many chances to dupe and endanger the public.

From funfairs and car boot sales to summer fetes and musical concerts, summer events can sometimes be rife with fake and counterfeit goods, mis-sold tickets and disappointing food – all issues which intersect with the work of trading standards.

Just the ticket
Websites that offer tickets to events which are sold out, that promise huge discounts while offering no guarantee or assurance that tickets are valid – or even exist – have become more common in recent years. (And as though selling non-existent tickets to real events wasn’t bad enough, there have even been cases of completely fictional events being promoted as a means of mining consumer data.) Consumers should be aware that many of these websites can appear legitimate on the surface, and may have URLs that appear close to the real thing.

New legislation, in combination with trading standards activities, has made significant inroads in taking on ticketing fraudsters. Rules have recently been introduced to combat touting – ticket resellers are now required to give customers detailed information about tickets, including details of any restrictions, the location of seats and the original price of the ticket being resold.

Fake holiday deals are another area in which summer scams can proliferate, and trading standards officers and the police are cracking down on them. In one recent case, a woman in Scotland was scammed into buying a holiday on a caravan park, only to discover that the real owner of the caravan was unaware that such a holiday was even being advertised.

Unreal deals
Just as fake tickets and fake events have come to the attention of trading standards officers, so too have counterfeit goods being sold at summer events. Items such as illegal tobacco have been seized at car boot sales in recent months, and fake goods worth £100,000 were taken out of circulation by Cambridgeshire trading standards officers at an open-air market over the early May bank holiday this year.

Clearly such products pose a significant risk to public health, and event organisers and the general public alike are encouraged to remain on the lookout for any items or activities which appear unsafe – even something as innocuous as children’s face-painting can sometimes be potentially hazardous.

Despite the risk of criminal activities around summer events, the trading standards profession is fighting back – with the support of businesses and consumers. Initiatives such as the Real Deal markets scheme have proved successful in protecting consumers purchasing goods at food markets, as well as rewarding legitimate traders.

Summer days out should be times when consumers feel comfort in the knowledge that whatever they choose to purchase – whether that’s an item of food, a souvenir or an experience – is safe and good value for money. Trading standards has a powerful role to play in ensuring that people remember their summer holidays for all the right reasons.