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Trading standards investigations 

Our specialist Trading Standards Investigations solicitors understand that a Trading Standards investigation can be disruptive to you and your business, and can cause damage to your business’ reputation. Our solicitors can assist you and your business through the Trading Standards Investigations process.

Free Initial Telephone Discussion

For a free initial telephone discussion, please call us on 020 7404 3004 or email and we'll be in touch shortly. We can help clients wherever you are based across England and Wales.

We are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What are Trading Standards?

Trading Standards are laws that protect consumers from unfair trading. Trading Standards organisations ensure that businesses do not mislead customers or carry out activities that may be dangerous to customers.

What is a Trading Standards investigation?

Local authority trading standards departments are usually responsible for bringing Trading Standards prosecutions. Trading Standards departments are responsible for investigation of businesses that have breached trading laws or have engaged in unethical trading practices.

In addition to local authorities, the following bodies are able to investigate breaches of trading standards:

  • The Ministry of Justice (‘MOJ’)

  • The Environment Agency

  • The Food Standards Agency

  • The Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’)

  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (‘DEFRA’)

Trading Standards teams have their own criteria for pursuing an investigation against a business following a complaint from consumer. The following are factors that are taken into account following a complaint from a consumer:

  • Whether the complaints involve food and a public health risk;

  • Whether the complaint is from a vulnerable victim;

  • The amount of money involved and the number of customers and/or businesses affected;

  • Failure to comply with the law, such as failure to comply with a statutory notice;

  • Significant breaches of  animal health and welfare legislation;

  • Whether an assault, obstruction or impersonation of an authorised officer has taken place.

What can investigations cover?

Trading Standards investigations can investigate the following offences which can affect consumers:

  • Mis-description of property

  • Labelling

  • Weights and measures

  • Distance selling

  • Age-restricted sales

  • Consumer protection

  • Trademarking and counterfeiting offences

  • Advertising

  • High-pressure selling

  • Licensing.

What powers do Trading Standards officers have?

Trading Standard officers have a wide range of powers, which are contained in Schedule 5 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. These powers allow Trading Standard officers to gather the necessary evidence to aid their investigations.

In most cases, a Trading Standards officer can enter and inspect premises with or without a warrant. For a standard inspection, Trading Standards officers must give you two days of notice of the inspection in writing. However, written notice does not need to be provided to you if there is a suspicion that the law has been broken; there is a danger to consumers; or if a written notice would affect the investigation. If you do not allow the Trading Officer entry into your premises, this may be deemed a criminal offence.

During the course of an investigation, Trading Standards officers also have the power to:

  • Prosecute individuals and business in criminal courts

  • Prevent you from selling certain products

  • Seize goods and documentation

  • Inspect and test products

  • Make test purchases

  • Insist on the production of documentation  

Trading Standards officer can only close down your business by applying to the Court for an order to restrict business activities.

Trading Standards Enforcement

If it is found that you have broken the law, Trading Standards officers can take the following actions:

  • Issue a caution or a warning

  • Issue a fixed-penalty notice

  • Conduct a review of your premises license with a view to revoking the license

  • Pursue a criminal prosecution

The action taken by the Trading Standards officers will depend on the severity of the violation. They will consider aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on the type of enforcement action to take.

Aggravating factors include:

  • If the offence took place over a long period of time

  • If the victim was elderly or vulnerable

  • If the offender has a lack of remorse

  • Evidence of significant detriment to the consumer or the public

  • The business acted fraudulently or negligently

Trading Standards may consider the following mitigating factors:

  • If the offender has admitted guilt quickly

  • If the offender has paid compensation to the victim

  • A history of good character

How can we help?

Our specialist solicitors can help you if you discover that you are being investigated by Trading Standards. We can advise you and represent you during the investigation and ensure that the Trading Standards officers act lawfully and within their powers.

For a free initial telephone discussion, please call us on 020 7404 3004 or email and we'll be in touch shortly.

We can help clients wherever you are based across England and Wales and we are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

We can assist wherever you are based and have offices in central London.

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