23rd October 2022

Trading Standards Wales Week

A week of activities drawing attention to the important work of Trading Standards Officers in Wales gets under way with a focus on age-restricted sales.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
We're not very good at promoting ourselves; we don't like to go out there and sing our own praises. So we thought, well, let's put to the side the complaining and let's try something a little bit different

The first ever Trading Standards Wales Week kicks off on Monday 24 October with a focus on age-restricted sales before going on to address other areas of Trading Standards work essential to keeping consumers and businesses safe.

The day of age-restricted sales activities follows the recent gathering of intelligence on the availability of vaping products to children in Wales. Of 113 test purchases carried out by Trading Standards authorities in Wales so far this year, 15% resulted in a sale. Worryingly, in two instances the underage volunteer was asked their age, answered honestly, and was still supplied with the product.

On Tuesday the theme will be vehicle sales; Wednesday’s activities centre around food labelling and allergens; Thursday’s activities will examine the role Trading Standards has to play in the journey towards net-zero by cracking down on energy scams and greenwashing claims; while on Friday attention will be on online scams and issues surrounding counterfeit goods and illicit dog sales.

Judith Parry, Chair of Trading Standards Wales, explains the thinking behind the week of activities: “The challenges we face are pretty much the same as across the whole of the UK – what we do with the resources available and how we can have as much of an impact as we can with those resources,” she says.

The priority areas targeted by Trading Standards Wales Week have been informed by surveys and conversations with colleagues on the front line, Parry adds. “We’re very active, we’ve got a lot of operations going and throughout the year, each authority gives us a picture of what’s happening in Wales.”

That joined-up, proactive approach is particularly important in the present climate, she adds. “At the moment in Trading Standards, we’re fighting for our name to be heard. We’re also struggling for funding. There are a lot of deficits within local authority now and they’re asking for budget cuts everywhere.

“We’re not very good at promoting ourselves; we don’t like to go out there and sing our own praises. So we thought, well, let’s put to the side the complaining and let’s try something a little bit different.

“We’re looking at those areas that perhaps people – whether they are elected members, councillors, or consumers – don’t realise we’ve got an interest in. Things like the net-zero agenda, combating organised crime groups and illegal tobacco; these are the things that will hopefully boost our profile.”

Parry was recently featured as a guest on the Ask the Regulator podcast, and Trading Standards Wales will be putting out daily podcasts throughout the week discussing each day’s themes – look out for the #weareTradingStandardsWales hashtag on social media and follow @WalesTS on Twitter for more information.

Emerging issues
As well as budget cuts, Trading Standards Wales Week has also been created as a response to several increasingly serious threats facing Welsh consumers. “The first one is rogue traders and people who have started greenwashing their products and advertising them as eco-friendly,” Parry says. “They offer to put solar panels on roofs, or say ‘we can come and install a smart meter, which can save you money’.

“Consumers are aware that energy bills are going up, and are thinking more about things like cavity wall insulation, or double glazing. That’s when the scammers appear on doorsteps – whenever there are funds or grants available, the rogues latch on to that.

“There are also issues with what’s on our high streets – people advertising more sustainable clothes, claiming things are made from recycled materials.”

Parry gave evidence at the Senedd in September during a session dedicated to climate change, the environment and infrastructure. “It’s good for Trading Standards to have representation in conversations like that,” she says. “We need to be supporting genuine businesses and making sure they get the right information to be able to trade honestly and succeed.

“There’s a big government push on regenerating high streets, economic regeneration and growth, and Trading Standards has a really big part to play in that.”

Allergen resources
Wednesday’s activities will be devoted to food labelling and allergens, a subject with which Trading Standards Wales, through its award-winning allergens awareness project spearheaded by Dilys Harris, has been heavily involved.

“Allergens are one of the areas we get involved in where there is a very bad outcome when things goes wrong,” says Parry. “We were happy to support Dilys when she came up with the idea of creating multilingual videos and other resources. It’s really good that businesses have those resources in their own languages. It’s complicated enough trying to understand as an English speaker; I see information come across my desk every day of certain ingredients that contain an allergen which I would never have considered they contained.

“The additional concern now with the cost-of-living crisis is that many businesses will be looking for cheaper suppliers. I was speaking to one of my food experts recently, for example, about satay sauce. Some versions have got a lot more allergens than others. If businesses aren’t aware of that, they might just think ‘I can swap this satay sauce out for that one and there won’t be an issue with the label’.

“I do feel for the businesses because it is very, very complicated to get to grips with,” she adds. “The legislation about food prepared for direct sale is not easy – it’s not even easy for us, and it does require quite a bit of reading through to make sure that we can advise correctly. Once a business wants to be compliant, it can make our work a little bit easier to engage with them.”

One response to “Trading Standards Wales Week”

  1. Luke Williams says:

    Great summary of the challenges facing the service. Increasing demands with diminishing resources, we have to work regionally to met these challenges

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