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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Targeting rogue traders
Trading standards officers want more powers to investigate rogue traders
As the government begins a new campaign against "rip-off Britain", trading standards officers are in the front-line, enforcing consumer rights. The BBC's consumer affairs correspondent Nicola Carslaw reports from their annual conference which starts on Tuesday

The Institute of Trading Standards wants tougher laws and more resources to crack down on rogue traders throughout the UK.

Over the next three days, the International Arena in Cardiff will be the forum for debate among officers responsible for protecting consumers.

They'll be asking the new consumer affairs minister, Melanie Johnson, to tighten the controls on misleading price promotions and will present her with a plan to improve business standards generally.

Legislation designed to strengthen their powers was dropped from the last Queens Speech, and trading standards officers want to ensure that this time they get the full backing of government.


One of the reasons Trading Standards officers are demanding more resources and more recognition is because consumerism is placing more and more demands upon them.

They themselves are being called on to further the consumer cause, to take action, to enforce measure after measure on the high street, on the internet, in countryside and town.

This year, officers have been particularly over-stretched because of the foot and mouth outbreak.

They've been overseeing the licensing of animal movements and the opening and closing of footpaths.

At the conference, Joyce D'Silva, the director of the campaign group, Compassion In World farming, will be calling for radical reform of farming practices.

She will be calling into question the whole economic and social basis on which intensive farming has flourished.

In a workshop session, she'll condemn what she calls "the appalling and unnecessary suffering inflicted on farm animals in intensive systems and the distress caused to them by transporting them across the country to get a better price at journey's end."


Trading Standards officers think they're undervalued.

They have to enforce more than eighty acts of parliament and ensure the whole trading environment is fair.

They 're responsible for policing high street businesses, for the safety of products; they're tasked with enforcing the way food is sold and for the welfare of animals from farm to auction.

Yet, when it comes to budget time, officers believe they suffer - that they are overlooked because they are not considered strategically important.

Christine Wade, the head of trading standards at Essex County Council, is using this conference to give a rallying cry to the troops.

"We should not set ourselves in a niche as a small specialist service," she will say. "There is now a great opportunity for us all to play a role in delivering the wider community agenda and raising our profile. Now is the time to show how we make a difference."

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Business
Rogue traders cost billions
24 Jul 00 | UK
Rip-off traders evading law
16 Feb 00 | Business
New clampdown on rogue traders
18 Apr 00 | Business
Is Britain being ripped off?
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