News item

Trading Standards Institute award for grieving mother

A grieving mother who has supported a campaign against potentially lethal counterfeit products is being hailed as a hero by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

Patsy O'Keeffe, whose seven-year-old son Connor died when he was electrocuted by a faulty games console charger, joined TSI's campaign to strengthen the law to protect consumers against dangerous products.

Today, TSI insisted more action needed to be taken by the Government to improve the situation regarding dangerous products.

And Patsy, backing the call, said: 'I don't feel I deserve an award - I think I've just done what anyone would, faced with similar circumstances. I hope that by speaking about what happened to my son some action will be taken that will stop any other family having to go through what we have.'

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'Protecting consumers against dangerous products is vitally important. The Government has been looking into this issue for a while but nothing seems to have materialised. It is time for the talking to stop and for some action to be taken.

'I would urge the Government to prioritise this issue and take the necessary action to make sure that members of the public are not put in danger by dangerous goods.'

Christine Heemskerk, TSI lead officer for consumer and product safety, added: 'The profession is calling for increased priority to be given to product safety by central government to enable trading standards to undertake effective market surveillance.

'In particular, there is a need for an up-to-date national home injury database and vigorous national sampling and testing programmes.'

Patsy will receive her TSI 'Hero' award at the Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Annual Conference & Exhibition, at the Bournemouth International Centre on Wednesday 25 June.

Bryan Lewin, chairman of TSI, will present the award. He said: 'Despite her grief, Patsy has courageously spoken up publicly to support our efforts to stamp out dangerous - and often counterfeit - products.

'Her young son tragically lost his life using a lethal product similar to equipment that trading standards professionals found readily available online in this country.

'We are determined to make sure his death was not in vain - and our award to Patsy expresses our deep admiration for the way she has spoken up to try to make sure another family does not have to go through the same terrible ordeal.'

Connor, of Walworth, south east London, was electrocuted while playing with his Gameboy, when he was using a counterfeit, unsafe charger during a family holiday in Phuket, Thailand, in December 2006.

The charger had been bought from a shop on the holiday island and tests on the device found it had serious defects, with the wires within it dangerously close together.

But it is not just abroad that such products can be purchased, as trading standards professionals from Hertfordshire found when they tested electrical chargers and adaptors available from UK-based sellers on auction sites.

They found that 15 out of 21 chargers and adapters they purchased online did not comply with European and UK safety legislation - and seven of them were deemed dangerous enough to pose a risk of electrocution.

During National Consumer Week last November, TSI urged the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to:

  • Make product safety a key priority to restore consumer confidence and protect buyers
  • Promote a national sampling and testing programme for products, backed by adequate funding, and collate the details on a central database
  • Carry out a review of the use of the CE mark - commonly interpreted as a declaration that a product meets strict European safety standards but which, in the case of toys and electrical equipment, is in fact a self-declaration of safety by the manufacturers. (Other consumer products, including gas appliances and personal protection equipment, can only legally carry the CE mark after being tested and/or accredited by an independent organisation).
  • Re-introduce a government-funded central database listing details of incidents and injuries in the home and outside (these databases were maintained centrally until 2001-02) to highlight trends and areas of concern more quickly and effectively
  • Work closely with auction sites to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities on safety.

Notes to Editors

Photo Opportunity:

Patsy O'Keeffe will receive a 'Hero' award from Trading Standards Institute (TSI) chairman Bryan Lewin at the TSI annual conference and exhibition at Bournemouth International Centre on Wednesday 25 June at 12.30pm

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists!

The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.

Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

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.