UK Government

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Minister Warns Consumers to Watch out for Scams Whilst Looking for Bargains this Christmas

Press Release   •   Dec 04, 2009 11:08 GMT

Consumer minister Kevin Brennan has today warned consumers to be on their guard from retailers offering deals that seem too good to be true in the run-up to Christmas and the January sales, as part of the Government’s “know your consumer rights” campaign.

He also reminded retailers of their obligation not to mislead customers.

Cases have been brought to the Government’s attention recently where retailers have been selling products for a short period at a higher price and then discounting them back down to their usual price, misleading consumers about the promotion.

Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said:

”At this time of year, there are lots of offers being made to consumers, but they have a right to know whether they are really getting a bargain.

“The government brought in new laws last year which ban retailers and traders from misleading consumers about the price of a product or any discounts available. We’ve also provided a guide for retailers setting out best practice on how to make sure they don’t mislead consumers about pricing.

“We know that this sort of thing happens a lot, so I want to warn consumers to be on their guard. If someone thinks that a price has been unfairly marked up, or a discount isn’t genuine, then they should report this to their local trading standards team who will be able to take action and stop this exploitation of consumers.

“Consumers can protect themselves too, by shopping around for the best deal and comparing prices online. Practical advice on what to do before you buy, and your rights after you’ve bought something is available from the consumer direct website, www.consumerdirect.gov.uk.”

Martin Fisher, pricing lead officer at the Trading Standard Institute added:

“Trading standards will continue to work with supermarkets and other retailers to tackle pricing methods that are in breach of the law and guidance provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“We at the Trading Standards Institute are concerned about how widespread continuous special offers or seasonal price ballooning are in supermarkets and elsewhere, and feel time has come for tough action.”

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations have been in place for over a year and prevent practices such as advertising a product that is not available to entice customers into a shop and misleading consumers by having a product on constant special offer.

These regulations are currently being used by Trading Standards officers in Dorset to bring a prosecution against the owners of the ‘Lapland’ themed Christmas attraction in the New Forest which received multiple complaints from customers in the run-up to Christmas 2008.

Notes to editors

1.                  The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), came into force on 26 May 2008, and transpose into UK law the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD). They put in place a more comprehensive framework for dealing with sharp practices and rogue traders.

2.                  The CPRs prohibit traders in all sectors from engaging in unfair commercial (mainly marketing and selling) practices against consumers and set out rules that determine when commercial practices are unfair.

3.                  More information on the CPRs is available at: http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/consumers/buying-selling/CPRs/page52554.html

4.                  Trading Standards Institute

Trading Standards institute aim to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of their members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

More information on the work of TSI is available at www.tsi.org.uk

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.

Contacts

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