Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service has a wide-ranging role in ensuring fair trading by supporting businesses and protecting consumers. The Service is committed to maintaining legal compliance to help ensure that businesses do not take an unfair advantage over competitors or consumers.
This helps to provide a level playing field for all and allows consumers to have confidence in the local economy. We also have responsibilities concerning the health and welfare of livestock and plans are in place to prevent and contain disease outbreaks.
What can we do
We receive thousands of complaints and enquiries annually, so we need to prioritise the most serious cases and use the others to help us plan our prevention work. We are not able to investigate every complaint individually. We look at a number of issues to help us to decide which cases we investigate. For example:
- amount of money involved
- number of customers or businesses affected
- vulnerability of the victim
- risk to safety
- complaints involving food and a risk to public health and wellbeing
- significant breaches of animal health and welfare legislation with a risk of disease outbreak or affecting farm animals
- failure to comply with a statutory notice, written advice or other formal commitment to comply with the law
- complaints that relate to organised criminal activity such as doorstep crime
We also need to be sure that we can get enough evidence to use in court and that the investigation would be in the public interest.
We provide wide ranging advice and support to businesses to help local economic growth, this includes on-site where we offer assistance with legal compliance, quality and best practice.
If we do find a problem, there are various options open to us, such as offering advice and a timescale for a trader to come into compliance with the law, confiscating illegal goods, or launching criminal proceedings.
What we can’t do
- Give advice to members of the public: All consumers complaints should be made via our partner organisation the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. We then use this intelligence to direct our enforcement work. We may not take direct action with respect to your individual complaint.
- Obtain redress on your behalf: Consumers have rights and often if a trader breaks those rights, for example, through providing faulty goods or substandard services the consumer is owed compensation. We do not obtain this compensation on your behalf, however by contacting our partner organization Citizens Advice Consumer Service you will be given advice and assistance on how to obtain redress for yourself.
- Provide feedback on the outcome of your complaint: After you have made a complaint or provided information to Citizens Advice we will generally only contact you if we need further information. We do not usually provide feedback, except where officers intend to take formal action on the basis of an individual complaint.
- Take action in individual civil cases: Many complaints about traders are about civil matters, for example, failing to provide redress when faulty goods are sold. When a breach of the law is civil it does not necessarily mean that the trader has also committed a criminal offence. However, you may well be able to take your own action. If you contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service they will give you advice on what action you can take.