This year’s London Trading Standards Week (26-30 September) has kicked off today by shining the spotlight on the work of Trading Standards services to remove dangerous vaping products from sale across the city.
Almost £10m worth of illegal vaping devices have been seized in targeted operations by all 33 London authorities.
In addition to removing illegal vaping products, Trading Standards Officers from around London have been working with retailers to educate them about the importance of only stocking compliant devices.
Where intelligence has indicated that vapes are being sold to minors, teams have conducted test purchases and taken enforcement action intended to protect young people from nicotine addiction.
The work has drawn the attention of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), which has praised the work of Trading Standards teams and called for more funding for Trading Standards and regulatory services to better protect both consumers and businesses in London.
Gillian Golden, CEO of IBVTA, commented: “LTS have done an incredible job with limited resources to remove illegal products from the market. Non-compliant vape products are also associated with non-compliant sales, often to underage consumers. Our members applaud any actions that suppress this illegal trade, as it unfairly brings our sector into disrepute.”
Alongside illegal vapes, LTS Week is focusing on four other priority areas that have the potential to cause harm to consumers struggling to meet the rising cost of living. These are illegal tobacco and cigarettes; online marketplaces; lettings and client money protection; and doorstep crime.
Some 1.8 million illicit cigarettes have been seized in the past 18 months by LTS teams as part of Operation CeCe, an HMRC-funded operation to clamp down on the illegal tobacco market. With the help of specially trained sniffer dogs, a further 643kg of hand-rolling tobacco has been discovered concealed in hides in shops and storage units.
The illicit tobacco market has known links to organised crime and is used to fund other criminal activity. HMRC funding has allowed TS teams to disrupt the supply chain and remove illegal tobacco from London’s streets.
LTS Chair, Nishi Patel, said: “Trading Standards teams across the London region have been working tirelessly to protect their residents against unscrupulous and dishonest traders and to ensure reputable businesses can thrive in a fair marketplace.”
Amazon and eBay have also been the focus of LTS teams’ attention, with nearly 5,000 listings removed from both online marketplaces in just two months.
Weapons, corrosives, fireworks and skin lightening creams containing banned chemicals were identified in a sweep of the websites. Both companies cooperated fully with the findings from the operations and took prompt action in removing the items from sale.
Further LTS success stories include the £3m fines issued to estate and lettings agents who failed to protect deposits by using registered Client Money Protection accounts.
“This is the fifth year for London Trading Standards Week where we showcase the work of Officers, from tackling rogue letting agents to the seizing of illicit tobacco and e-cigarettes from our streets,” Nishi Patel added. “It is hoped that by raising the awareness of the work, consumers will feel empowered in their choices and traders will trade fairly, thus safeguarding our youth and most vulnerable members of our communities.
“This year’s impressive LTS Week figures shine a light on the value of their work, but also the varied threats consumers and businesses can face.”
Continuing the theme of protecting consumers, a series of cost of living-based tips will also be shared on the LTS social media channels as part of the week-long campaign, as well as doorstep crime prevention messages to warn London’s residents of the perils of cold-callers and rogue traders.