Valerie Simpson explained that the mission statement of London Trading Standards week was ‘Protecting Consumers and Safeguarding Businesses’. The campaign had focussed on a different theme each day and Hashith Shah explained that these themes had been: Underage Sales of Knives, which had been broadened to include sales of corrosive substances, Lettings Agencies, Scams and Doorstep Sales, Support for Businesses, and Product Safety. Valerie Simpson said that the week had promoted the work of trading standards and had also been good for staff morale as they had enjoyed working with and learning from officers across London. She said that the service was trying to work more closely with businesses and was also trying to commercialise its advice service.
Councillor Hamilton said that he felt that the Council needed to take a strong stand against the sale of Acid and Corrosive Substances. Valerie Simpson agreed that it was a very important emerging issue but noted that legislation made it difficult for the Council to do as much as it would like as it was not yet illegal for shops to sell corrosive substances to those under 18.
Councillor Hamilton asked what the requirements were for businesses selling second hand electrical goods. Hashith Shah explained that goods should be tested by a competent person and a new plug should be fitted unless the product was expected to be permanently connected to fixed wiring.
A resident asked how residents could contact the Trading Standards team. Valerie Simpson said that residents could call 020 8753 1081 or email email@example.com. The Chair suggested that the team try to get their phone number changes to 020 8753 7226, meaning that the last 4 digits would be scam.
Councillor Cassidy asked how the team dealt with online scams and fraud. Valerie Simpson said that it was very difficult to catch those committing these types of crimes, as they were often based abroad; there were national agencies which did attempt this type of work but Council trading standards teams did not have the resources needed to investigate these offences. The Council instead focussed on educating residents so that they did not fall victim to online scams. Hashith Shah said that the Council was looking to develop a social media profile which could help them get information about scams out to residents quickly.
Councillor Holder asked how many resident meetings the service attended. Valerie Simpson said that officers visited sheltered accommodation very regularly and also went to other meetings on request from residents. There was also a scheme called ‘Friends Against Scams’ which was intended to ensure that everyone knew someone who had been given training on avoiding scams and this helped to get the service’s education message out to the public.
The Chair asked how the business community had responded to the London Trading Standards Week. Hashith Shah said that the response had generally been very positive, with businesses pleased that the Council was engaging with them, although some of those who had failed test purchases were unhappy at first. He explained that the Council gave advice to national companies, as a primary authority, and that these companies were generally very satisfied with what the Council did.
Councillor Harcourt thanked officers for their report and their hard work both in London Trading Standards Week and throughout the year.