Press releases

Trading Standards are not snoopers, TSI tells critics

Following the publication of the Big Brother Watch surveillance report, the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) wants to see an end to the blanket criticism levelled at local government which fails to acknowledge the essential part played by  trading standards and other local authority public protection services in supporting and protecting people, communities and good business.

TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “It is deeply disappointing to see that the Secretary of State for Local Government has given a foreword to the Big Brother Watch RIPA report  that seems so critical of those he should champion.  We would challenge Mr Pickles to look at the evidence – he will not find  abuse or misuse of RIPA or other powers  by trading standards, but instead a long list of success stories of how consumers and honest business have been protected  from loan sharks, rogue traders and others that seek to defraud and prey on the vulnerable in our society.

“Without evidence gained from surveillance it will be much harder, and sometimes impossible, to bring criminals to justice.    Couple this with major budget cuts, reviews  of other statutory powers afforded to competent and experienced trading standards professionals acting locally and nationally in the consumer and economic interest, and the Home secretary also choosing to fall on local councils in her early statement on restriction of access to vital telecoms data.

“In the face of such criticism and review let me be clear – trading standards are not a foe they are a friend, the opposite of the extremely unhelpful council snooper’s image so many national politicians and others seem  set  to create.  Trading standards practitioners keep our communities safe and healthy in ways that many do not even realise, but they are not super human – the trading standards service, of which the UK can and should be proud, cannot be sustained if their powers and resources continue to be attacked in this way.

“The Protection of Freedoms Act has made it a legal obligation for local authorities to obtain an authorisation from a Magistrates Court to take action under RIPA.

“This provision  is an added burden on courts and trading standards alike,  and is a victory to sensationalised and distorted media coverage, which has highlighted errors of judgement of the few in local government at the expense of the vast body of evidence that shows RIPA being used in a proportionate and effective way for the good of consumers and honest business.”

On average a local authority will only use RIPA powers less than 10 times a year and national statistics show that council requests for communications data make up only 0.3 per cent of all requests received. This figure has remained consistent since 2006 when reporting was introduced.

DATE:23 August 2012

Notes to Editors:

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Irja Howie at TSI press office on 08456089430 / 07780675815 or

Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.

TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.  We are also supporting the delivery of initiatives such as the advice services Consumer Direct, UK ECC and ECCS.