Trading Standards Investigations

The last thing any busy business needs is to be investigated by Trading Standards.  Not only can such an investigation cost money in terms of fines and lost productivity, but it can also damage personal and professional reputations and destroy consumer confidence.  Our London-based solicitors specialise in advising on Trading Standards investigations.  We also have a robust reputation for defending our clients following a prosecution for breaching trading standards.   Not only will we explain the reasons for the investigation to you, but we will also critically examine every piece of evidence presented by the investigating authority, carefully take your instructions, and build a strong, persuasive case in your favour.

To contact us regarding a Trading Standards investigation, please call our office on 020 3824 8080 to make an appointment at our London office.

We are one of the most experienced firms in the UK dealing with Trading Standards investigations.  We are proficient, not only in UK law but in acting for clients who have been accused of cross-jurisdictional offences.

If you have been made subject to a Trading Standards investigation or have received a postal requisition/summons, it is crucial that you take the process seriously and instruct a solicitor experienced in Trading Standards investigations to advise and represent you.  Our experience and in-depth knowledge of the law surrounding trading standards, and the bodies that can enforce them, means we can confidently deal with even the most complex cases.

It is important in these cases to secure representation and obtain early involvement by a specialist defence solicitor at the earliest stage of the investigation in order that we can properly advise and safeguard your interest.  Sometimes early intervention and involvement can mean that the investigation is resolved without the need for criminal proceedings.  Our trading standards defence team is partner-led, able to swiftly work through the elements of an investigation to build a robust defence for you or your company.

What is a Trading Standards investigation?

Trading Standards prosecutions are usually bought by the local authority trading standards department.  They operate as stand-alone or as part of a larger department that deals with other compliance matters such as health and safety and environment, depending on the size of the council.

Trading Standards is responsible for investigating organisations that breach trading laws or trade in an unethical manner.

Teams can investigate a wide range of offences which affect consumers in their borough, which may include:

  • Property mis-description
  • High-pressure selling
  • Labelling
  • Weights and measures
  • Distance selling
  • Age restricted sales
  • Consumer protection
  • Trademark and counterfeiting offences
  • Advertising
  • Licensing

Who can investigate breaches of trading standards?

Breaches of trading standards can be investigated by several bodies in addition to a local authority, including;

  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • The Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
  • The Environment Agency
  • The Food Standards Agency
  • The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

What are the powers of Trading Standard’s officers when investigating?

The powers of Trading Standards investigatory teams are contained in a generic set of powers contained within the Consumer Rights Act 2015, Schedule 5.  However, additional powers may also be contained in specific legislation. 

A Trading Standards officer can:

  • Use similar powers to the police to investigate alleged criminal offences
  • Prosecute individuals and businesses in the criminal courts
  • Insist on the production of certain documentation
  • Make test purchases to gather evidence against you
  • Seize and detain goods and documentation
  • Enter your premises with or without a warrant
  • Inspect and test products
  • Stop you from selling certain products

It is imperative that you contact our Trading Standards solicitors immediately if you discover you are being investigated.  We will advise and represent you throughout the investigation and ensure investigators do not extend the scope of the power granted by legislation.

The other reason it is crucial to instruct us immediately is that it is an offence to intentionally obstruct an officer or fail to provide them with information without a reasonable excuse.  This can result in you providing more information than required.  Our solicitors have dealt with hundreds of Trading Standards investigations and can advise you on what you do and do not have to disclose at each stage of the process, including if you are being interviewed under caution.

In what circumstances will Trading Standards investigate a business?

Trading Standards teams will have their own criteria for pursuing an investigation but common factors which are taken into account following a complaint are:

  • The amount of money involved and number of customers or businesses affected
  • The vulnerability of the victim(s)
  • Complaints involving food and a risk to public health and wellbeing
  • Significant breaches of animal health and welfare legislation with a risk of disease outbreak or affecting farm animals
  • Failure to comply with a statutory notice, written advice or other formal commitment to comply with the law
  • Complaints about related organised criminal activity, such as doorstep crime
  • Obstruction, assault or impersonation of an authorised officer

What enforcement action can be taken by Trading Standard’s teams?

A Trading Standards officer has several options available to them if their investigation uncovers a breach.  These include:

  • Issuing a caution
  • Issuing a fixed-penalty notice
  • If the breach involves a licensing issue, for example, the sale of alcohol to underage individuals, an application may be made for the licence to be reviewed or revoked
  • Criminal prosecution

Officers will consider aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on the type of penalty to issue.  Aggravating factors may include:

  • If the offence took place over a long period of time
  • The victim was particularly elderly or vulnerable
  • A lack of remorse on behalf of the offender
  • Evidence of significant consumer or public detriment
  • The defendant acted fraudulently, or was reckless or negligent in their activities

Mitigating factors considered by Trading Standards officers may include:

  • A quick admission of guilt
  • Paying compensation to the victim
  • Previous good character
  • A low degree of culpability

Our solicitors can advise you on the possible penalty if you have been found guilty of breaching trading standards and put forward mitigating factors to lessen the severity of the penalty given.  If a criminal prosecution is launched, the matter is sent to the Magistrates’ Court and if serious onto the Crown Court for trial.  We can provide expert advice and representation, ensuring you receive a strong pro-active defence.

To contact our trading standards solicitors in complete confidence, please call 020 3824 8080 or fill in our contact form to get in touch.