National Trading Standards (NTS) secured more than 100 criminal convictions and a total of 230 years of prison sentences according to new figures from the annual Consumer Harm Report. This represents a record in terms of length of prison sentences handed down.
The report reveals that NTS prevented more than £182m of losses to consumers and business in 2017/18, a rise of more than a third compared to the previous year. It takes the total figure of consumer detriment prevented over the past four years to more than £650m.
The Consumer Harm Report also warns consumers and businesses of emerging threats that could impact them over the coming year. These threats include:
- The growth of fake modelling scams on social media which offer people the opportunity to launch their modelling career, only for the ‘modelling agency’ to then pocket the money handed over
- A rise in counterfeit and unsafe goods arriving from China and the Far East, with intelligence suggesting major film releases scheduled for 2019 will trigger larger volumes of counterfeit goods
- Criminals preparing for Euro 2020 with fake tournament tickets already on sale online and plans for counterfeit merchandise such as replica shirts and tournament memorabilia underway
- The risk from cryptocurrency investment scams – there is huge interest in cryptocurrencies but people need to be aware there are also scammers out there trying to con them out of their money
- The sale of illegal skin lightening creams, many of which contain dangerous ingredients such as hydroquinone, corticosteroids and mercury which can seriously damage a person’s health
NTS’s efforts over the last year secured more than £1.2m in compensation for victims of crime. In addition a further £10m was confiscated from criminals following successful investigations.
The work of the NTS Safety at Ports and Borders Teams – based at ports, airports and postal hubs – saw in excess of 2.2 million unsafe and non-compliant goods prevented from entering the country. The estimated cost to society had these items not been stopped is £70m.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “The Consumer Harm Report clearly demonstrates the success National Trading Standards has had in protecting consumers and tackling criminal activity in the last year. Our work securing 100 convictions and 230 years of prison sentences sends a very clear message that these crimes are taken extremely seriously and we will not stop in our efforts to bring criminals to justice.
“The report also shows that the threats facing consumers and business are constantly evolving. From the use of social media to promote fake modelling and cryptocurrency scams to the dangers of illegal skin lightening creams, criminals are always looking for new and creative ways to boost their ill-gotten gains.
“National Trading Standards investigators are continuing to work hard to protect consumers but I encourage everyone to remain vigilant. If you suspect that you, a family member or someone you know may be the victim of a scam or fraud then I would urge you to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “Ensuring markets work fairly and effectively for consumers is central to our modern Industrial Strategy, and I am proud to say the UK’s consumer protection regime is among the strongest in the world.
“This report underlines the vital work of National Trading Standards in protecting consumers from scammers, dangerous goods and shoddy services, with nearly £200m saved in the last year alone.”
In 2017/18 NTS secured significant convictions in a number of cases including a landmark investigation into the operation of copycat websites, a mother and son Dyson vacuum cleaner servicing fraud and a computer repair scammer who claimed to represent Microsoft.
The full Consumer Harm Report can be found here.