frequently asked questions
- What is Trading Standards?
- Trading Standards is the name given to the enforcement
in the UK of a wide range of consumer related legislation,
covering areas such as product safety, fair trading, metrology,
and environmental controls. The trading standards service
is provided by over 200 local government authorities in
Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland (central government),
and the Channel Islands, often as part of a larger department.
It is concerned principally with ensuring honesty and
fairness in business activity, but exists to help business
as well as consumers, by giving advice on legislation
and ensuring a level playing field for competition.
- What do Trading Standards Officers
- Trading Standards Officers enforce a wide range of consumer
related legislation, for example the Weights and Measures
Act 1985, the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Trade
Descriptions Act 1968 and the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
The job involves visiting premises to ensure that legislation
is complied with, giving advice to traders and consumers,
and investigating complaints of breaches of legislation.
Investigations range from the simple in the case of a
retailer not pricing items correctly, to complex in the
case of a motor dealer 'clocking' motor vehicles.
Offenders are prosecuted, or in Scotland reported to the
Authorities also employ enforcement officers
who carry out a similar job to TSOs but usually in one
specialised area. They do not normally discharge any Weights
and Measures duties.
More information about training can be seen on this site
at TS Careers
- What rights do I have when
I buy faulty goods in a shop?
- When you buy goods from any trader you have the right
to expect certain standards - the goods must be:
- Of satisfactory quality, covering for example
the appearance and finish of goods, their safety and
durability and their freedom from defects (even minor
ones) - except where they have been pointed out to
you before purchase.
- Fit for their purpose, including any purpose
tell the vendor that you require them for.
- As described
- If the goods do not meet these standards you are entitled
to reject them, and get your money back. You do not have
to accept a credit note or replacement (although you may
want to consider this if you've had the goods for some
time). You have a reasonable time to return faulty
goods - after which you are deemed to have accepted the
goods and their faults, although you may still be able
to claim damages.
- What about services rather
- You are entitled to certain standards of service. The
service should be carried out with reasonable care and
skill, within a reasonable time, and for a reasonable
price providing the cost was not agreed beforehand. The
person or organisation may be a member of a trade association
or other professional body, be regulated by an official
watchdog or by an Ombudsman, and they may have a Code
of Practice. You will be able to complain to them or sue
the trader for compensation.
- Must I produce a receipt to
get a refund?
- The short answer is no, what you do need is proof
of purchase. This could be a cashed cheque or credit
card counterfoil or even a witness who saw you make the
purchase (in Scotland you will need a witness). However
having a receipt will make your task very much easier
and it is obviously the best proof of purchase you can
get so look after it until you are sure that the goods
- If I cancel an order can I
get any deposit back that I paid?
- Probably not. Most deposits are not returnable. If you
cancel an order, the seller could be entitled to keep
your deposit as compensation for your breach of the agreement,
however it would have to be a reasonable amount depending
on the circumstances.
- What if the supplier cancels
an order for some reason, can I get any deposit back that
- Probably yes although you may have to take a small claims
action if he refuses. If the supplier cancels an order
he will be in breach of contract and should return any
monies you have paid. There may be terms in your contract
which allow him to keep some or all of your deposit in
such circumstances, however these terms will probably
be unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts
Regulations 1999 - contact your local Trading Standards
Department for more details.
- I saw goods marked at low price
in a shop but the shop refused to sell them to me. Can
they do this?
- Yes. A shop is not bound to sell you anything, or at
any price on display. They are making an invitation to
treat, and the invitation can be withdrawn at any time
before acceptance. However, price indications should not
be misleading. If they are, it could be an offence under
the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and should be reported
to your local Trading Standards Office
- What if the shop tells me to
- If the shop ultimately refuses to refund your money
and you feel you have a good case you must take action
yourself - consider taking them to court, you
can use the small claims procedure depending on the value
of the goods [or services] is less than 750ukp [in Scotland]
or 5000ukp [in England] - reduced to 1000ukp for claims
involving personal injury. Court fees vary and you should
check your local court service for details, or try courtservice.gov.uk
You would be best to get advice first, as in certain circumstances
you may be liable for costs - your local trading standards
office will provide advice free of charge, and may even
help you fill in forms.
if the price is on a website and I order it and give my
just the same as above - if the retailer has not gone
as far as accepting your offer - which might be debiting
your credit or debit card then they will be able to decline
your offer to buy the goods at that price - of course
they should take steps to amend the website details as
soon as possible after they find out about the error.
This is a more complex issue however than for a shop purchase,
and acceptance of your offer may depend on a number of
factors including the sellers terms and conditions, and
will likely vary from case to case.
- What if a shop repairs goods
but they are still faulty?
- You have the same rights as before you agreed to the
repair - let the shop know you are reserving the right
to reject the goods when you agree to the repair attempt.
You should give the vendor a reasonable opportunity to
repair goods - especially if the fault is minor and the
goods can be put into new condition.
- My mum bought me a new computer
for Christmas and it's faulty, the shop say I have no
contract with them and no rights...what's the position?
- Strictly speaking the contract for the sale of the goods
is between the seller and your mum - she will have to
take the computer back. Generally a lot of stores would
deal with you if you have proof of purchase, out of goodwill.
- Are there any times when I
will not be entitled to my money back or to exchange the
(i) If you have held onto the goods for too long before
returning them, you may be taken to have 'accepted' them.
(ii) Or if you were told about the fault before you bought
(iii) Or if you did the damage yourself either by ignoring
advice about using the goods or through lack of care.
(iv) Or if there is nothing wrong with the goods and you
have just changed your mind and decided you do not like
them. (Some shops may agree to accept the return of the
goods as a gesture of goodwill).
- I saw goods marked at a price
in a shop but when I took them to the till to pay the
shop refused to sell them to me. Can they do this ?
- Yes. A shop is not bound to serve you with anything,
or at any price on display. They are making an invitation
to treat, and the invitation can be withdrawn at any time
- it is the buyer who makes the offer to buy.
However, price indications should not be misleading. If
they are, it could be an offence under the Consumer
Protection Act 1987 and should be reported to your
local Trading Standards office.
- What if I buy goods in a sale?
- If you buy goods in a sale your statutory rights still
apply, however if the shop draws specific defects to your
attention then you have no rights in relation to those
- I bought a new dress for a
wedding but I've lost weight and it doesn't fit, can I
get a refund, I haven't worn it?
- No! You are not entitled to a refund if there is no
fault with your purchase.
- Can I take secondhand goods
back if they are faulty?
- Yes! When you buy secondhand goods you have the same
rights as when you buy new, however you must remember
that you cannot expect the same quality or durability
from secondhand goods, and this must be taken into account.
- If I return goods do I have
to a accept a "credit note" ?
- No. You can insist on the full repayment of your money
providing the goods are faulty or not as described. If
you accept a credit note you may not be able to exchange
it for cash later if you cannot find anything else in
the shop that you like. However, if you have merely changed
your mind about an item, the seller might offer you a
credit note as a goodwill gesture in which case you may
wish to accept it. However, some credit notes last for
a limited period so check this before you accept it.
- What rights do I have if I
buy goods privately, from an individual?
- Not many! The Sale of Goods legislation does not wholly
apply, although goods will still have to meet any description
given by the seller or you can take action for breach
of contract. You should watch out for traders who pretend
to be private sellers in order to avoid statutory liabilities
- if you suspect a private seller is really a trader contact
your local trading standards office, they will be able
to take action under Fair Trading Act powers.
- I bought goods which are faulty
but the shop won't refund and pointed out a 'no refunds'
- Notices like that are illegal and it's not possible
for traders to exclude liability for faulty goods - even
if you agree. Contact your local trading standards office
and they will get the notice taken down.
- If I signed an "acceptance
note" when I received the goods does this mean I lose
my rights if something goes wrong ?
- No. You are entitled to a reasonable time to check the
goods for faults and as long as you return them as soon
as you can you should be entitled to the return of your
money or an exchange.
- Does a warranty or guarantee
give me any special rights?
- Yes...but read the guarantee or warranty carefully to
check what it covers. If a guarantee comes with a registration
card you may have to fill this out and send it off before
the guarantee covers you. The guarantee should tell you
how to make a claim. Guarantees do not affect your normal
- I bought a TV a month ago and
it blew up - the shop say they'll send it to the manufacturer
under his warranty, is that OK?
- No! Manufacturer's 'guarantees' are in addition to the
rights conferred on the customer by law. 'Statutory' rights
are against the seller NOT the manufacturer and any guarantee
cannot take away your statutory rights.
- What if the goods are too heavy
to carry back to the shop? Am I responsible for the cost
of taking the goods back?
- No. You can ask the seller to come and collect the goods
as long as you have not held onto them for too long, and
as long-as you bought the goods yourself.
- I bought a computer monitor
at a fair and the seller said it had a 30 day warranty...I
thought I should get a year warranty with all electrical
- There is no automatic entitlement to a warranty although
most reputable manufacturers will offer at least a year
on their products, however as mentioned above this 'warranty'
is in addition to and does not affect your statutory rights
under the Sale of Goods Act
- Is it worth buying goods with
a credit card?
- Yes....if the goods cost more than £100 but less
than £30,000 then the credit card company is equally
liable for any claim you have against the seller. This
can be particularly useful if the trader has gone out
- If I have bought something
on credit can I cancel it?
- You can usually only cancel a credit agreement if it
was made with the supplier in person (not over the 'phone),
and if the agreement was signed 'off trade premises',
for example if it were signed at your home. The agreement
will tell you whether you have a right to cancel and how
much time you have in which to do it.
- Do I have any rights if my
holiday is cancelled or if I do not get what I paid for
- You have certain rights when booking a holiday. If you
booked a package holiday through a tour operator they
have to be "bonded". This means if the tour operator goes
bust before you travel you should get your money back.
If you are abroad they should pay to get you home at no
extra cost. In certain circumstances you may have to pay
money in advance and claim it back on your return.
Remember if you paid for your holiday by credit card,
and it cost more than £100 you may be able to get your
money back from the credit card company if the tour
operator goes out of business. If your holiday has not
gone well then check what the holiday brochure says.
The brochure descriptions, terms and conditions at the
back form the contract. If the holiday did not meet
the description or was of a poor standard you may be
able to claim compensation for breach of contract. You
should write to the tour operator setting out your claim
as soon as you get home.
- I recently put £10 of petrol
in my car but I don't think I got it all, what do I do?
- In the first instance take a note of the pump number
and call your local Trading Standards
Office, they will send an inspector to check the pump.
However modern pumps are very accurate and problems are
relatively few, in fact meters have changed very little
over the past 20 years or so because of their robust design.
Typically petrol pumps will be accurate to at least 0.3-0.5
- I run a shop that repairs consumer
What procedure must I follow to dispose of uncollected
goods - when can we throw then out?
- In England and Wales the situation is covered by the
Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. Repairers may
detain goods until charges are met, and sell the goods
if the customer does not return (a period of not less
than 3 months springs to mind).
It is advisable to retain the right to do this by stating
it on the contract, or on a prominent notice. You should
also take reasonable steps to trace the owner before selling.
Or send him a notice specifying that the goods are ready
for delivery (the form of which is specified in the Act)
In Scotland the situation is similar but is dealt with
by common law