News item

Trading standards - not just for Christmas!

PiggyBankBeltConsumers will fall foul of counterfeit and dangerous goods if Trading Standards services continue to suffer under government cuts, UNISON warned today.

The UK’s largest union, along with the Trading Standards Institute, is campaigning to promote the valuable work of trading standards officers, reminding the public that these vital services are not just for Christmas.

 Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for consumers and traders, and as belts are tightened, shoppers may be encouraged to take advantage of goods that seem too good to be true.

 But the union is warning that as public sector cuts bite, the ability of trading standards officers to protect them from fake or dangerous goods is becoming increasingly limited.

 Helga Pile, UNISON national officer, said:

 “The festive season is a particularly risky time for shoppers, particularly in these austere times, and without the intervention of trading standards officers, consumers can fall foul of unscrupulous traders offering fake or dangerous goods at prices that are too good to be true.

 “But trading standards are not just for Christmas; officers work hard all year to keep consumers safe, to protect them from fraud as a result of fake goods, and to ensure traders abide by the law. They also protect legitimate businesses, which suffer through being undercut by the rogue traders.

“Our investigation has shown that public sector cuts are having a very real impact on the ability of the hard-working trading standards officers to provide this vital service.

  “Without proper investment, we are concerned that the diminished workforce will struggle to protect the public, putting their finances, their health and the safety of their families, in real danger.”

 Ron Gainsford, chief executive at the Trading Standards Institute, said: “We all want to feel safe in the knowledge that the presents we have bought for our loved ones are the real deal and won’t put them in danger or fall apart as soon as they are opened and that our Christmas food and drink is what we think it is and won’t send us to hospital.

  “Trading standards protect and support consumers, businesses and communities in ways that many don’t even realise.  We fear the realisation will hit when it is too late, when endless salami-slicing leaves no salami left and our world-class service will no longer be able to meet expectations.

  “UNISON figures show that the level of activity in some key trading standards areas have already fallen by a quarter – it is clear to us that the looming further budget cuts will mean largely the end of trading standards as we know it, the status quo will no longer hold and the country is becoming vulnerable should a major crisis such as the foot and mouth outbreak occur again.

  “Trading standards are not just for Christmas, but they are also not just for today – the service needs to be protected and effective new solutions found to make sure that we continue to have a robust system, that can not only function effectively on a day to day basis, but also respond to larger crises.”

 As part of The Damage, the union’s far-reaching investigation into public sector cuts, UNISON has uncovered the startling impact of public sector cuts on Trading Standards services.

 The investigation revealed that budgeted spending on trading standards services per head of population fell by 11% in two years, with 743 jobs lost, amounting to a massive 15% of the total workforce.

 Budget cuts have led to dramatic falls in levels of activity across the board including:

  •     a 29% drop in commenced prosecutions
  •     a 26% fall in the total number of  scheduled inspections
  •     a 24% fall in the total number of visits for enforcement   purposes
  •     a 25% fall in the total number of age restricted test purchases


 

ENDS

 

 DATE: 12 December 2012

Read the full report: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/21254.pdf

 

Notes for Editors:

 

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or pressoffice@tsi.org.uk

 

Charlie Breslin at the UNISON press office on 0207 121 5255 or c.breslin@unison.co.uk