In the guide
Why trading standards officers visit businesses and what powers they have, plus the Consumer Rights Act's 'enhanced consumer measures'
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
People working for trading standards are employees of your local council and are qualified in different ways to take on different aspects of law enforcement (due to the different levels of qualification and different job titles used they are referred to generically in this guide as trading standards officers, or TSOs).
Trading standards services enforce the law in a number of subject areas:
Trading standards services carry out routine inspections of premises so it may be that they have chosen to visit stores around your area. It may also be that another business or a member of the public has made a complaint. Depending on the nature of the complaint TSOs may wish to inspect your store and/or ask about and examine relevant products or paperwork.
TSOs are given powers under Schedule 5 to the Consumer Rights Act 2015:
TSOs have a range of additional powers dependent upon the legislation they are enforcing. These include the power to require traders to produce documents relating to their business and powers to seize and detain goods and documents in certain circumstances.
It is not unknown for fraudsters to impersonate TSOs so genuine TSOs will always carry photographic identification, which will usually show their name, department and the local authority they work for. If you have any doubts then call your local authority right away.
No. Trading standards services have no powers to stop a business trading.
They can use a wide-range of options from 'informal assurances' right up to a prosecution. Each authority will have an enforcement policy, which states what they will do in order to ensure that the action they take is fair and proportionate. This can be requested from your local authority.
No. The dispute is between your business and the consumer and, although trading standards can offer advice to either party, only the courts can award payment of compensation etc.
No. Fair trading means that other businesses are not disadvantaged by unfair or illegal trading practices. In fact, trading standards services enforce the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 and also give advice to businesses. See 'Business-to-business marketing' for further details.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, which was known as the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills at the time) has produced detailed guidance on how the Consumer Rights Act 2015 affects trading standards officers' powers: Investigatory powers of consumer law enforcers: guidance for businesses on the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
BEIS has also published guidance on the 'enhanced consumer measures' brought in by the Consumer Rights Act 2015: Enhanced consumer measures: guidance for enforcers of consumer law. As the document's title suggests, it is primarily aimed at TSOs but it may also be of interest to businesses in their dealings with trading standards services.
Last reviewed / updated: December 2017
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
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