National Trading Standards Board shows it has teeth as it reaches 1st anniversary
Fraud worth more than £145 million has been tackled by projects funded by the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) in its first year.
The Board was set up as part of the new Consumer Landscape in April 2012 to provide leadership, influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally across England and Wales. It has received praise from the Consumer Minister Jo Swinson for the impact it is already having, contributing towards the Government’s proposals to simplify the consumer landscape, strengthen the effectiveness of enforcement and empower consumers.
Going forward from April 2013 the NTSB now has the responsibility for national and more complex consumer enforcement cases previously handled by the Office of Fair Trading, building on their existing responsibility for coordinating intelligence and prioritising national and cross-boundary enforcement in areas such as scams, illegal money lending and rogue traders.
Figures from NTSB enforcement projects in England and Wales show that in the last 12 months:
• £139,675,242 potential fraud was uncovered by Scambusters teams
• £7,194,026 consumer detriment avoided by Scambusters teams
• £1,392,700 total value of loans made by loan sharks tackled by Illegal Money Lending teams, with 865 victims being given direct or indirect support
• £6,7million potential fraud relating to investigations was uncovered by the National e-Crime Centre.
• 70 per cent of imports sampled by the Safety at Ports Project were found to be unsafe or non compliant
The consumer minister Jo Swinson said: "The National Trading Standards Board has proved itself to be an invaluable asset to the Trading Standards network in just one year, and I congratulate them on tackling fraud worth more than £145m.
"We are firmly behind the NTSB because we want to improve consumer protection and enhance coordination between consumer enforcers. We have seen some shocking examples of large-scale scams preying on vulnerable consumers and businesses, leaving them substantially out of pocket.
"As the successful prosecutions highlight, the NTSB’s hard work across the UK since 2012 has led to serious fraudsters and criminals being brought to justice.
"We are committed to clamping down on fraudsters, and Trading Standards and the NTSB are central to that work. That is why I announced last month that Trading Standards will now be responsible for tackling consumer enforcement threats that cross boundaries and cases of national significance, as part of the wider reforms we are making to improve consumer protection.“
The NTSB's newly selected chairman Lord Toby Harris is looking forward to lead the organisation on from its first formative year, taking the baton from David Collinson.
He said: "David Collinson has provided a strong leadership as NTSB's chairman in its first formative year.
"The figures reported back to us by our trading standards colleagues speak for themselves about the tremendous positive impact we are having, and the value for money for the funding that we have provided totalling at just over £10million.
"It is important to note that these figures do not reflect the enormous amount of awareness raising that our teams also do, stopping people from becoming victims in the first place and empowering them to help themselves if they do find themselves in trouble.
"This is a promising preview of what is to come as we embed further into the consumer landscape and all our projects get fully up to speed.
"In 2013/14 we will see the fruits of this work with the implementation of our strategic evaluation of key trading standards issues, our tasking and coordination function, and an integrated intelligence system."
Successful prosecutions April 2012 – March 2013 include:
• Operation Resolution – four fraudsters who cheated millions from investors in a land banking scam were all sent to prison for more than six years in a case led by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Trading Standards. The NTSB provided funding for legal action through its tactical tasking arrangements (see below) which provides funding for costs to local Trading Standards teams undertaking cases which have significant national impact. The Tri-Region Enforcement Capacity Scambuster Team also provided assistance on this complicated and protracted investigation, which started in 2010.
• Compass Mobility Ltd – due to Trading Standards’ ability to join up intelligence, two company directors were jailed for five years and the third was jailed for two years after hundreds of complaints over fraudulent sales of mobility aids. This case was led by the Yorkshire & the Humber Trading Standards Group Scambuster Team with support from Derbyshire Trading Standards, who provided evidence about two of the defendants’ involvement in a similar phoenix company.
• Operation Fleet – this is another excellent example of the joined-up intelligence being used in order to gather evidence and secure a conviction. Three criminals were sent to prison for up to three years and a fourth sentenced to community work for running a fake mobile phone insurance company, netting some £200,000 from 2,500 victims. The case was led by Central England Trading Standards Authorities’ Scambuster Team.
• An Illegal Money Lender from the Midlands - was sentenced to 4 and a half years prison for money laundering, blackmail, running an unlicensed business and perverting the court of justice – he lent money illegally to 88 people at a rate of £50 interest for every £100 borrowed. The investigation was led by the Illegal Money Lending Team England, based at Birmingham City Council, who worked in partnership with the local trading standards service and Staffordshire Police. Further proceedings are underway in respect of this individual.
April 2012- 13 key milestones for the NTSB include:
• Developing an effective intelligence sharing framework for local trading standards services, that will be delivered from April 2013.
• Setting up a National E-Crime Centre to respond to increasing online threats.
• Reviewing existing Scambusters and Safety at Ports teams to build on their success
• Maximising coordinated and collaborative work by for example developing procedures with the Office of Fair Trading to deal with requests for national support from local and regional trading standards services and developing tactical tasking arrangements.
Notes to editors:
The full 2013 – 2014 NTSB business plan can be viewed at www.tradingstandards.gov.uk
For more information please contact Irja Howie at the NTSB press office on 08456089430 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information Illegal Money Lending Team England please contact their press officer Sarah-Jayne Lynch 0121 693 1030 Sarah-Jayne.Lynch@birmingham.gov.uk
National Trading Standards Board
The NTSB is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales, the Safety at Ports Project and the National e-Crime Centre.
Scambusters is a NTSB funded project aimed at targeting rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing a support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central Trading Standards Authorities (CENTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5. Tri Region Enforcement Capacity (TREC), on behalf of Trading Standards South East Ltd (TSSEL), East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and London Trading Standards Association (LOTSA)
6. Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7. Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. The Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
Illegal Money Lending Teams
The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
Nationally Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 222 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.
The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
Safety at Ports Project
The Safety at Ports Project - is funded by NTSB and is concentrated at the two main ports of entry for consumer products into the UK, which are currently Felixstowe and Southampton. Suffolk Trading Standards and Southampton Trading Standards (as part of Trading Standards South East) deal with imports directly and make referrals to inland trading standards services to prevent potentially unsafe or non-compliant goods from entering the UK.
National E-Crime Centre
Funded by the NTSB, the National Trading Standards e-Crime Centre (NTSeCC) recognises that a secure and safe online environment that protects consumers and allows businesses to flourish is vital to the long term success of the UK economy. The NTSeCC provides a national resource to support all local authority areas in England and Wales, tackling the increasing threat to businesses and consumers in relation to internet scams and rip-offs. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
DATE: 30 April 2013