News item

Rogue traders warned crime won’t pay this Christmas

Rogue traders hoping to profit during the festive season are being warned that they face losing any money they have made if they are caught by trading standards services.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is warning unscrupulous traders that local authorities can and will take action under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to confiscate money made from their criminal activity.

TSI is issuing the message as part of its National Consumer Week (NCW), which was launched on Monday (17 Nov) at the Office of Fair Trading in London.

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'It is important those involved in crime are deprived of the financial gains a criminal lifestyle offers.

'POCA is a piece of legislation which helps tackle criminals by hitting them where it hurts - by taking away not only their money, but also other property such as their house. By using this legislation, local authorities can help reduce crime by stopping the criminals from profiting.

'Trading standards professionals are approaching their busiest time of the year, when they will be tackling rogue traders, counterfeiters and loan sharks who are looking to take advantage of consumers over the Christmas period. We want to let the criminals know that trading standards will use POCA to show that crime doesn't pay.'

A proportion of the money seized from criminals' financial assets can go to local authorities where it can be used to fund additional work in the battle against crime.

Bedfordshire trading standards has effectively used POCA on a number of occasions and is joining with TSI to warn rogue traders that crime does not pay.

One example saw Bedfordshire trading standards raid a trader selling counterfeit sportswear from his stall in Bedford market. The trader was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to charges under the Trade Marks Act and Trade Descriptions Act.

An application was made under POCA and the court ruled that the trader had benefited from his criminality to the sum of £585,422. He was ordered to pay the full amount which he eventually did after being sent to prison for initially failing to make the payments.

Carl Davies, from Bedfordshire trading standards, said: 'POCA confiscation proceedings can take a long time to come to fruition but, as this example shows, relieving the defendant of over half a million pounds certainly justifies the time and effort taken to bring this matter to a successful conclusion.

'Rogue traders are being warned this Christmas - we can and will take effective action to recover the money they have made from criminality.

'I also want to make other local authorities aware that Bedfordshire County Council Trading Standards Service is able to provide them with POCA support. Furthermore, in matters relating to film piracy, this support will be free.'

Notes to editors

While the Proceeds of Crime Act does extend to Scotland, local authority Trading Standards services, however, are not able to participate in the Proceeds of Crime incentivisation scheme and are unable to individually claim any proceeds from a POCA confiscation order. Confiscation and recovered money goes to the Scottish Government and is used for a variety of anti-crime initiatives.

National Consumer Week

This is the 21st annual National Consumer Week organised by the Trading Standards Institute and for the fourth year in association with Consumer Direct, the government-funded consumer advice telephone and online service.

National Consumer Week is a platform to raise awareness about specific consumer issues and particularly to highlight new developments in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. It profiles the work of and is supported by local authority trading standards services across the UK.

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.