Headlines: May 22nd, 2008

Local authority Trading Standards Officers are warning rogue traders that they will face tough action under new powers that will come into force next week. LACORS, which coordinates trading standards work across the country, says scam artists, cowboy builders and doorstep criminals are facing the biggest shake-up to consumer law in decades.

LACORS says the Consumer Protection Regulations, which will be in place from Monday, will close legal loopholes that have been exploited by traders to pressurise and dupe householders. The regulations will replace many existing protection laws following a Europe-wide shake up in trading practices. They will apply to businesses that trade directly with consumers, including hoteliers, builders, retailers and second hand car dealers.

They will, for the first time, create a catch-all duty for businesses not to trade unfairly. They will also ban 31 specific types of unfair sales practices including bogus ‘closing down’ sales, prize draw frauds, bogus free gifts and displaying false accreditations. False claims about a product’s effectiveness, failing to reveal a minimum period on a contract and other practices that mislead customers will also be outlawed. The law also aims to end aggressive sales techniques.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, the chairman of LACORS, said local authorities were committed to using every tool in their arsenal to catch the rogue traders, cowboy builders and doorstep sellers who preyed on the vulnerable and the elderly. “This shake-up represents the biggest change to consumer protection laws in decades and gives councils new powers to crack down on unfair and illegal tactics,” he said.