Have you ever had a complaint about a product? Maybe it caused you or your loved one harm? Or maybe it fell short of the stated measure or weight? In such cases, most consumers simply decide not to purchase the item again and opt for an alternative. But others raise an alarm on such situations. Well, it’s good for all consumers to know that there are rules that protect them. One organization charged with consumer protection is the Trading Standards.
This is a local authority department whose mandate is to protect consumers against unscrupulous traders as well as offer support services to legit businesses. Formerly referred to a Weights and Measures, the authority enforces a range of legislation such as licensing, health and safety, environmental safety and health etc.
This department also investigates all commercial undertakings that engage in unethical trading processes as well as attempt to correct these breaches by giving advisory services or legal enforcement of the set standards.
On a daily basis, a Trading Standards officer’s work involves looking into consumer complaints and routinely inspecting businesses for legislation compliance. For businesses that are proven to have been involved in illegal business practices, a report is prepared with recommended remedies. In serious cases, however, where extensive human harm has occurred, legal action is taken. The legal actions may also include infringing on the activities of the business as well as getting compensation for those affected.
People sustain injuries daily from products they use. Here is the deal; as a consumer, you have the responsibility to conduct your due diligence before using a product. For example, if you ingest a product whose package’s label clearly states it is past its sell-by date, you cannot be compensated. You can injure yourself by using a product without following the precise instructions indicated on the package; the trader is not liable for your actions. So, what complaints are recognized by Trading Standards? Well, report a company if:
They purposely misled you into purchasing their services or goods
You were sold unsafe or dangerous products
The work done wasn’t satisfactory (e.g. left the site unsafe or in a dangerous state)
They sold you counterfeit goods
You were pressured to make a purchase you did not want
They sold you a dangerous item (such as an unroadworthy vehicle)
When things go wrong, there is always a tendency to point fingers. However, the Trading Standards is all about getting to the bottom of issues so as to protect all consumers. In some instances, the consumers are duped by unscrupulous middle men to buy unauthorized items.
Things can go terribly wrong with products or services that are not purchased through the recognized trusted scheme. In this case, it becomes difficult to trace the dealers, and it can be quite a task for the authority to handle every individual complaint. When such cases occur, the authority passes the complaints to the local offices for easier and faster action.
The best place to start engaging the Trading Standards department is through their local offices. You can simply use your postcode to get information on your nearest office. The local offices are the best since they are conversant with all the legal businesses in your locality and can easily identify those trading outside the trusted trading scheme.
You can also call Trading Standards Tel 0844 850 0172.This consumer helpline allows you to tell your story regardless of your location and advices you on how to best follow up on the investigations. The helpline staff first assesses the information given and the severity of the complaint then passes it to the relevant local Trading Standards office. Keep in mind that the 0844 numbers attract extra calling charges, so be prepared to pay up to 7p extra per minute.
It is true that there are consumers who would want to blame the trader even if they are responsible for any harm that may have occurred. It is for this reason that the Trading Standards does not automatically accuse the businesses.
Once a complaint is received, the department decides whether the case is worth investigating or not depending on the details given. If they decide that it is worth checking out they might ask you for more information or even evidence to prove your allegations. Depending on the outcome of their investigation, they can stop the trader from engaging in unfair trade.
This is where education comes in. the Trading Standards may send the guilty trader CTSI (Chartered Trading Standards Institute) to learn more on what fair trade is, how to carry it and the legal implications of unfair trade. They can also decide to pursue other legal actions as is permitted by the law.
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