Consumers should report a business to Trading Standards if they sold something:
- unsafe or dangerous
- not as described
- they didn’t want to buy it (often linked to doorstep selling)
Additionally, Trading Standards will also want to know if:
- they have been scammed – for example, they’ve paid for something online that didn’t arrive, and the seller couldn’t be contacted
- they tried to stop a consumer using their legal rights – for example, they said faulty goods couldn’t be returned
- they didn’t carry out work properly
Legislation, namely The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations mean you cannot mislead or harass consumers by, for example:
- including false or deceptive messages
- leaving out important information
- using aggressive sales techniques
It is a breach of the Regulations (and potentially a criminal offence) to engage in an ‘unfair commercial practice’. In relation to the description of a product, a practice is unfair if it is either of the following and can be verbal, written, illustrated (advertising) or implied:
- a ‘misleading action’ (it contains false or misleading information and is therefore untruthful in relation to a list of specified matters, or its overall presentation in any way deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer).
- a ‘misleading omission’ (it omits or hides material information or provides material information in a manner that is not clear)
In addition, for a practice to be unfair the trader’s misleading action or omission must cause, or be likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision (as above, this could be to buy as opposed to not buy, having work done or not, or paying a different amount for goods). The law also introduces a general duty not to trade unfairly.
Trading Standards will enforce legislation and can take businesses to court or stop them operating. It would be the responsibility of the consumer to take the business to court to recover funds. Citizens Advice can offer support and advice in relation to the problem and can be contacted on 0808 223 1133.