27th September 2021

Reflecting on eight years at NTS

As Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards (NTS), prepares to step down from his role on the NTS board, he reflects on the vital role played by the trading standards community and the value of partnership across the sector.

By Lord Toby Harris
Chair of National Trading Standards
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how quickly criminals take advantage of changing consumer and business needs

In 2013, I was honoured to be appointed the Chair of National Trading Standards and become part of a community that has such an important and valued role in protecting consumers and safeguarding legitimate businesses. I am proud of our achievements over the past eight years. Tackling over £1bn in business and consumer detriment and delivering a return on investment of £11.54 for every £1 spent, we have made a significant impact right across England, Wales and beyond.

We couldn’t have achieved this without the invaluable support of our partners in the trading standards community. Your unwavering efforts to support NTS’s work to deal with consumer harm, tackle the criminals responsible and support consumers and responsible businesses is commendable. The strength of our collaborative working ensures we are able to take effective action against the criminals who prey on consumers and businesses.

NTS’s work is incredibly diverse, delivered by a talented and committed team of individuals. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how quickly criminals take advantage of changing consumer and business needs. But with our team’s knowledge and expertise, we were able to respond quickly to the ever-evolving threats to consumers and businesses.

Our teams have worked hard to combat scams and online crime, and their efforts – supported by the wider trading standards community – have meant that £51m in consumer and business detriment was avoided in 2020/2021. Over the past year we have also strengthened our work on supply chains in markets (£5m in counterfeit products seized), knife sales to the under-18s (£179,755 in fines handed down to rogue businesses), estate agency regulation (637 enforcement officers signed up to the NTSELAT’s e-learning course) and eCrime (855 takedowns or suspensions of websites/social media sites) as well as many other areas. This critical work not only protects consumers and businesses but also helps to enhance the good reputation of the trading standards community.

There have of course been plenty of challenges and in the face of significant resourcing constraints we have been compelled to make tough choices when selecting priority work areas. To ensure we deliver exceptional value for money, we utilise intelligence gathered by trading standards officers on the ground to ensure we concentrate our resources where they are most needed. With these valuable insights, we continue to make a real impact, year after year, which is a testament to the expertise and professionalism of the National Trading Standards team and our partners.

My successor, Paul Noone, will take over as Chair on an interim basis until a new Chair is appointed in the first few months of next year. Paul is a hugely respected figure in the trading standards community and, as the current Vice-Chair of National Trading Standards, he is ideally placed to lead the organisation at this time. There are plans in the pipeline in Whitehall to update consumer rights legislation and I know Paul will take an active interest in monitoring the situation carefully. In the coming months you can expect more vital work from NTS to tackle mass marketing fraud, eCrime and a range of other threats to consumers and businesses, as well as continued collaboration with you, our partners. It has been a pleasure working as part of the trading standards community, and I look forward to following developments in the sector for many years to come.

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