A new report – commissioned equally by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Trading Standards Institute, and researched and written by members of the University Of Birmingham Institute Of Local Government Studies – established that in recent year’s local council trading standards departments have had to manage spending cuts of, in some cases, 40%.
The consumer body Which? is investigating complaints about cuts in local authority trading standards budgets which are happening at a time when those departments are expected to police estate agency and letting agency regulations.
Trading standards officers at councils have increased their responsibility to police estate and lettings agents, and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 have been extended to cover estate agents and letting agents.
Which? Executive director Richard Lloyd says “It’s extremely worrying that the government’s own research has found trading standards are being run down, losing vital knowledge and expertise. The government must now set out how it will ensure consumers are properly protected, especially at a time when they have asked trading standards to do even more and take the lead in national consumer law enforcement.”
The report highlighted the progressively more reactive role of trading standards – responding to complaints rather than proactively policing standards – and the exact problem of not being staffed sufficiently to administer ‘approved trader’ schemes where companies are expected to be accredited.