Bedford Borough Environmental Health &
Trading Standards Service is adopting an ‘intelligence-led’
approach to enforcement. The aim is to ensure our limited
resources are used to the best effect in protecting the trading
environment for the benefit of the whole community. All
sources of information, but in particular complaints, are used to
identify trends and problem traders and to determine where our
future activities should be focused. If you have information
that could help the service please report it to us either via email
on email@example.com or by
telephone on 01234 718099.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) plays a
leading role in helping consumers understand their rights and
protecting consumer interests throughout the UK, while ensuring
that business practices are fair and competitive.
Description of goods
HIPs–advice for estate agents
Mileage fraud / unroadworthy
Prices to be displayed
Selling online or at a
Nearly every business advertises at some
point - whether in newspapers or magazines, in brochures and
leaflets, or on the internet. However you advertise, the claims you
make must comply with certain regulations. This also applies to
Two codes of practice, drawn up by the
committees of advertising practice, cover broadcast and
non-broadcast advertising. Follow these codes and it's unlikely
that your advertisements will be open to legal objection.
The codes of practice are enforced mainly by
the Advertising Standards Authority, and the laws on advertising by
Local Authority Trading Standards Services. Adverts on TV and radio
are regulated by the Office of Communications (Ofcom).
For more information on advertising
regulations and how they may affect you,
please go to the OFT website (new window).
There are dozens of types of scams circulating
at any one time. They offer a chance to invest in an "exciting new
money-making scheme", inform you of an "unexpected win on a prize
draw or lottery", and frequently ask you for your bank account
details in order to "process your winnings" to you. The scams we
see are aimed at businesses as well as consumers.
With email and text messages, it is possible
to send unsolicited offers to thousands of people quickly and
relatively cheaply. If only a tiny fraction of the people reply,
huge profits can still be made by these scammers.
Professionally written letters, faxes and
emails can be very convincing, but in our experience, which ever
method these promotions are distributed, they are still a dishonest
attempt to trap you into parting with your money. Our advice to any
consumers or businesses is if something that seems too good to be
true, it probably is.
If you’re concerned about protecting your
personal details or wish to check whether a specific company is
complying with the Data Protection laws then go to the
Commissioner’s Office (new window) website for further
Counterfeit (fake) goods is big business,
supported by terrorist organisations. It is estimated the cost to
industry in the UK is £150 million pounds a year and rising.
Everything can be counterfeited – here are a
- Branded clothing
- Computer games
- Car parts
Counterfeit goods cost less than the real
thing, are always inferior and therefore may be less durable,
unsafe or downright dangerous because they haven't undergone the
rigorous testing that manufacturers apply to their products to
ensure that they are safe.
Even products that are unlikely to cause
injury may be disappointing to say the least. Is it such a
bargain if it won't work properly or breaks after a few uses?
"It is not always easy to spot the fakes but
if it seems to good to be true then it probably is!"
In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs is
responsible for intercepting counterfeits at the frontiers - at
ports, airports and the postal hub at Coventry. The new UK
Border Agency will bring together immigration, VAT and trade
controls at the frontiers and will in future act on behalf of
Customs to enforce anti-counterfeiting legislation.
Trading standards enforce the criminal trade
mark laws within the UK.
For more information on counterfeit goods and
intellectual property crime and the ways they impact your life,
please visit the Anti-Counterfeiting Group website.
Description of goods
European and British law says that all
products sold in this country must be labelled correctly and
provide enough information for people to know exactly what they are
buying. Product names and labels must not be misleading and certain
food labels have to correctly specify weights, expiry dates,
ingredients and nutritional content.
For more information of accurately describing
goods and services, please visit the
Trading Standards Institute website. (new window)
The OFT supervises the working and enforcement
of the Estate Agents Act and if you are engaged in estate agency
work you have to comply with the Act. The OFT can take action
against those who do not comply—they can warn them about their
behaviour or ban them from estate agency work.
To find out more, see the
Estate Agents Act area of the OFT website.
Home Improvement Packs (HIPs)
The Home Information Packs (HIPs) regulations
came into effect on 1 August 2007. All homes for sale in England
and Wales with three or more bedrooms will need to have a HIP. The
HIP is provided to prospective purchasers and contains details
- the property title
- energy performance
- planning permissions
Information on HIPs for estate agents, sellers
and buyers can be found on the HIPs (new window) section of
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You have a legal duty not to use unfair terms
in the contracts you have with consumers.
Consumers can complain about unfair contract
terms to their Trading Standards Services, the OFT and other
qualifying organisations (the utility, rail and communication
regulators, the Information Commissioner, Which? and the Financial
To find out more about the unfair contract
terms legislation, including guidance specific to particular kinds
of businesses that explains which types of term are unfair and
which are exempt, see the
Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations area (opens in
new window) of the Office of Fair Trading website.
Mileage Fraud and Unroadworthy Vehicles
Low mileage vehicles tend to be worth more
than higher mileage ones, consequently mileage fraud is
Vehicle odometers measures and indicate the
mileage which a vehicle has travelled and that indication
constitutes a ‘trade description’.
It follows that the alteration of vehicle
odometers, commonly known as ’clocking’, and the supply etc. of
‘clocked ‘ vehicles is an offence under the Trade Descriptions
Any trader, who alters any mileage reading,
whether from a higher to a lower figure or to zero, commits an
A trader who purchases a car which has a false
mileage reading and places it on his forecourt for sale without
taking all reasonable precautions commits an offence. Positive
action is required to avoid committing such an offence.
- never alter an odometer
- if it is necessary to change a
speedometer/odometer unit, you must inform customers what you have
done and of the true mileage.
- if you wish to make any use of the
recorded mileage you must check the history of a car before
offering it for sale.
- keep full and comprehensive
- if you are not sure the mileage is true,
use a disclaimer notice and make sure it remains in
The Road Traffic Act 1988 applies to anyone
who supplies a motor vehicle be it privately or in the course of a
IF YOU SELL A VEHICLE WHICH IS
UNROADWORTHY, THE SALE IS ILLEGAL WHETHER IT TAKES PLACE AT A
PRIVATE HOUSE, A GARAGE, OR A MOTOR AUCTION.
A vehicle is unroadworthy if:
its brakes, steering, tyres, construction or
equipment do not meet statutory requirements
its use on the road would present a danger of
injury to any person,
it is dangerous due to structural
If you have any doubts about whether a vehicle
is unroadworthy, you must have the vehicle examined by a competent
person. Do not offer the vehicle for sale until is has been
Having a current MOT certificate does not
prove that a vehicle is roadworthy.
If you are in trade and supply unroadworthy
vehicles, you must ensure that you take all reasonable steps to
inform prospective customers that they must not use the vehicle on
- Make it clear in advertisements that the
vehicle is unroadworthy and is being sold only for spare parts or
- Display the vehicle separately and mark it
- Ask the buyer to sign an acknowledgement
that the care is unroadworthy, itemise all known faults, and mark
that the car is being sold for 'spares or repair'. Give the buyer a
- Write 'UNROADWORTHY--SOLD FOR SPARES OR
REPAIRS--NOT FOR USE ON THE ROAD' across the sales invoice. Give
the buyer a copy.
- Do not hand over any paperwork which may
suggest that the vehicle is roadworthy such as a current MOT
certificate or tax disc.
- Make sure that the buyer does not drive
away an unroadworthy vehicle. It should be collected or delivered
on a trailer.
You should still follow these guidelines as
far as possible if you are not in business. If you supply an
unroadworthy vehicle, you could be prosecuted by Trading
For more information on vehicle fraud, sales
or repair, please contact the Trading Standards Service.
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There are sales known as 'mock auctions' which
appear to be auctions but are in reality conducted in a way to
entice purchasers to pay large sums of money for unknown goods.
They are often advertised through leaflets and flyers; held in
public rooms rather than retail premises where the sales room doors
locked and goods are handed out wrapped tightly in black plastic
bags. It is hard to tell what you actually bought until you have
left - when it is often too late to complain.
It is an offence to conduct an auction where
the sale of goods is by competitive bidding and where the right to
bid is restricted to persons who have bought one or more articles.
Trading Standards may be able to take action to prevent a sale
taking place, or to prosecute the traders concerned.
For more information on mock auctions, please
contact the Trading Standards Service.
If a business offers credit or lends money to
consumers, or allows customers time to pay for goods and services,
it must be licensed with the Consumer Credit Licensing Bureau of
the Office of Fair Trading.
The following types of business must be
licensed with the Office of Fair Trading:
- consumer credit
- consumer hire
- debit adjusting and debt
- debt collecting
- credit reference agencies
- canvassing credit off trade
The Office of Fair Trading holds a public
record of all licensed traders and of all those who have applied
for a licence. They can provide details to the public about its
licensed businesses, such as the type of activities they cover,
their authorised trading names and main business address.
To find out more about your duties as a credit
provider, including guidance on who needs a licence and how to
apply for one, see the consumer
credit licensing (new window) area of the Office of Fair
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Consumer Credit Act 2006
This Act reforms the Consumer Credit Act 1974
and will change the licensing system operated by the OFT. Guidance
and information on the changes is available
here (new window).
The act considerably changes the consumer
credit market - some of these changes include strengthening credit
licence rules, giving the Office of Fair Trading the power to fine
moneylenders and make surprise raids on debt companies, and making
small print bigger on adverts for financial products.
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Money Laundering Regulations 2007
From 15 December 2007, the OFT will supervise
those businesses with a Category A consumer credit licence, under
the Money Laundering Regulations. The OFT has published guidance to
help you comply with your obligations under the regulations.
Complete information and forms are available
from the OFT website
Any person organising packages which include
travel accommodation and other tourist facilities (e.g. day trips)
must ensure clients are given sufficient information about pricing
and the package as a whole. The organiser must cover the
clients for repatriation and refunds in the event of insolvency of
Prices to be displayed
All goods on sale are required to have a price
displayed either by marking each item, or using shelf-edge markers
or price lists near to the goods. V.A.T. must be included in the
price – unless the trader sells primarily to other traders.
There are detailed rules for showing the price per pound or
kilogram, and also specific rules for jewellers, petrol stations,
restaurants, pubs and bars and hotels. Traders must also display
how the method of payment affects the price (e.g. surcharges on
credit card purchases).
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In certain circumstances where a trader has
been given legal advice continues to persistently breach the
criminal and civil law, Trading Standards may seek an injunction
from a court compelling the trader to stop breaking the law.
Failure to comply with the court injunction could result in a
LACORS, which coordinates council trading
standards work across the UK, is warning scam artists, cowboy
builders and doorstep criminals that loopholes in the law which
they have exploited in the past are now closed for good.
The Consumer Protection Regulations, which
replace many existing consumer protection laws as a result of a
Europe-wide shake up in trading practices, will apply to businesses
trading directly with consumers, from hoteliers and builders to
retailers and second hand car dealers, and will for the first time
establish a catch-all duty for businesses not to trade unfairly.
The CPRs will also specifically ban 31 types of unfair sales
practices outright, including:
- Bogus ‘closing down’ sales
- Prize draw scams
- Offering bogus free gifts
- Displaying false accreditations (such as
wrongly claiming to be a CORGI-registered plumber)
Practices that mislead the consumer will also
be against the law, such as false claims about a product’s
effectiveness or failing to reveal to a customer that a contract
has to run for a minimum period.
The new legislation will also make it against
the law for aggressive practices to be used. These include the
hard, pressurized selling tactics adopted by some doorstep traders
who force customers to pay cash immediately for home repairs or
traders who insist on giving customers a lift to the bank to
Businesses who do not comply with the new laws
face a range of penalties from a written warning to, in the worst
cases, criminal prosecution. Depending on the severity of the
offence, these penalties could include fines and lengthy prison
Bedfordshire Trading Standards has two schemes
targeted at protecting Bedfordshire consumers from rogue traders
and aiding businesses in establishing themselves as bona-fide
‘trusted’ traders. For more information please see the links
Trading Standards Approved (TSA)
Cold Calling/Bogus? Phone Us!
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Selling online or at a distance
If you sell to consumers online, or sell at a
distance by another method such as digital TV, mail order, phone or
fax, then the Distance Selling Regulations may apply to you.
Existing consumer protection law, including
that on the sale of goods and misleading advertising, applies
online. Additional pieces of legislation more specific to Internet
trading are The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations
2000 (as amended) and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive)
Regulations 2002. These Regulations require consumers to be given
clear information about the goods and services offered, and the
right to cancel within seven working days. Clear information
including the company details, terms and conditions, description of
goods, cancellation rights and pricing information must be
available on the website.
Trading standards services enforce other
consumer and trading legislation that might apply. Examples include
dealing with Misleading Prices, Product Safety Legislation and the
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
To find out more about the Distance Selling
Regulations visit the
Distance Selling Regulations (new window) area of the OFT
All retail shops can open on a Sunday. Larger
shops however, whose internal retail area exceeds 280 square meters
are only allowed to open for up to 6 hours between the hours of
10am and 6pm.
Larger shops may not open on Easter Sunday or
Christmas Day, if it falls on a Sunday.
The following large shops may open at any time on a Sunday:
- Farm shops
- Shops selling wholly or mainly
- Motor cycle supplies and
- Registered pharmacies selling only
- Airport and Railway
- Service stations and petrol
- Stands at exhibitions
For more information on the Sunday Trading
Act, please visit the OPSI
website . (new window)
Traders must display on their business
premises details of who owns their business when the name of the
shop does not reveal the surname of the owner, or in the case of a
company their corporate name. These details must also be present on
The law is in a state of flux with regard to
business names. The current position is that the Companies Act 2006
is expected to repeal the Business Names Act 1985 on the 1 October
2009. Until that time, attention should be given to the 1985 Act
and relevant parts of the 2006 Act. These require the form, style
and legality of names used for companies, partnerships and sole
traders and the manner of communicating the name and address of the
entity to the public.
There are additional requirements for the
provision of information under the Electronic Commerce (EC
Directive) Regulations 2002 and the Consumer Protection (Distance
Selling) Regulations 2000 (as amended).
For more information, contact the Trading
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