The extent to which Trading Standards’ activities intersect with the lives of ordinary citizens across the UK is probably not appreciated by most people. Indeed, many will never realise how the behind-the-scenes work of Trading Standards has prevented them from being harmed by a dangerous product, ripped off by an unfair business practice or targeted by a scammer.
But by viewing the work of Trading Standards within the context of an average consumer’s lifetime, it becomes clear that in an extraordinary variety of ways, Trading Standards is there to support, protect and assist people at every step of their journey.
Infancy and childhood
Trading Standards enforces the safety of a wide range of products that could be dangerous to babies and small children, including pushchairs, cots and car seats. Trading Standards departments also work tirelessly to remove unsafe and counterfeit toys from the market and, in recent years, have been instrumental in initiatives, campaigns and enforcement work that prevent children from choking on particularly hazardous items such as button batteries, being exposed to dangerous chemicals such as phthalates, or being strangled by hazards such as blind cords.
To keep older children and teenagers safe, Trading Standards enforces age-restricted sales of products such as solvents, cigarettes and alcohol. In the past year alone, Trading Standards teams have removed more than 13 million illicit cigarettes from the streets, preventing them from getting into the hands of youngsters. Trading Standards also plays an important part of the fight against knife crime, preventing the sale of knives and offensive weapons to under-age consumers. It also ensures that products such as cosmetics and teeth-whitening kits adhere to the proper safety standards.
Trading Standards continues to support and protect people as they venture into larger purchasing decisions such as buying their first car. Trading Standards teams prevent dangerous vehicles from being sold to consumers and ensure that descriptions of vehicles for sale are accurate, and that drivers get their money’s worth at the petrol pump. When a consumer buys their first pint in a pub, Legal Metrology enforcement ensures they are getting exactly the amount they are paying for. And when they get a taxi home at the end of the night, Trading Standards helps enforce laws that ensure they arrive home safely.
Starting a family
If people choose to settle down, Trading Standards enforcement and initiatives, such as the new material information requirements, help ensure they get a fair deal when buying or renting a house. If they decide to have a pet, Trading Standards is there to ensure animals are sold by licensed breeders and cracks down on cruel, illegal practices such as the illicit breeding of puppies. Trading Standards also ensures that the food on families’ tables is safe, accurately described and correctly labelled for allergens, and that animal welfare is front-and-centre of the supply chain.
When people reach a point in life where they might have a bit of extra money to spend or invest, Trading Standards steps in to safeguard them against investment scams and misleading marketing claims. Trading Standards helps holidaymakers get a fair deal on things like package travel and hotel bookings, and is there to support them if things go wrong. And if a consumer is having work done on their home – whether that’s the installation of a new kitchen, repairs to a roof or the purchasing of a renewable heating system – Trading Standards is there to make sure they are not ripped off.
Trading Standards is particularly active in safeguarding society’s most vulnerable. This includes activities such as cracking down on scammers, cold-callers and rogue traders who target the elderly – and ensuring they are brought to justice. Trading Standards has promoted the use of assured trader schemes and devices like call blockers to screen nuisance phone calls. Trading Standards also works to ensure that care homes are operated to the high standards expected, and that consumers are treated with fairness, respect and dignity as they approach the end of their lives.