This page is about the enforcement policy of Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards Service. It provides information on:
- the purpose of our enforcement policy
- our principles of inspection and enforcement
- our compliance with the ‘home authority’ and ‘Primary Authority’ principle
- our enforcement actions
- our accessibility and advice details
- what you can expect of us
- our commitment to you
- complaints, compliments and comments about our Service
We are committed to the principles of good enforcement, as set out in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, the Enforcement Concordat and the Regulators’ Compliance Code.
Within the context of this Policy, ‘enforcement' includes any action taken by officers aimed at ensuring that businesses or individuals comply with the law – these actions may range from offering advice, information and issuing public warnings, to cautioning and instituting legal proceedings/prosecutions.
Compliance with this Policy will ensure that we will strive to be fair, impartial, independent and objective and will not be influenced by issues such as ethnicity or national origin, gender, religious beliefs, political views or the sexual orientation of the suspect, victim, witness or offender. Decisions will not be influenced by improper or undue pressure from any source.
1. The Purpose of our Enforcement Policy
The purpose of our enforcement policy is to provide a framework to make sure that we work in an equitable, practical and consistent manner.
The role of Trading Standards is to promote and maintain a fair and safe trading environment and thereby protect the interests of consumers and businesses. We enforce a wide range of business and consumer protection legislation relating to quality, quantity, safety, description and price of goods and services.
We carry out our duties in various ways including: inspection, sampling, test purchasing, testing, investigation and prosecution, but also by informing, advising and educating businesses and consumers.
We recognise that prevention is better than cure and that most businesses want to comply with the law. We will endeavour to help these businesses and others to meet their legal obligations without unnecessary expense. When a business does break the law, we will consider all the surrounding circumstances before deciding whether formal action is appropriate. A prosecution will only be brought if it is in the public interest to do so.
2. Our Principles of Inspection & Enforcement
We aim to prioritise and direct our regulatory effort effectively using intelligence and relevant risk assessment schemes.
Such risk assessments will have regard to all available, relevant and good-quality data. We will give due consideration of the combined effect of the potential impact and likelihood of non-compliance – this approach will enable us to focus our resources on the areas that need them most and to ensure that persistent offenders are identified quickly.
We will ensure that enforcement action is proportionate to the risks involved, and that the sanctions applied are meaningful.
We will be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of our activities as outlined in the Regulators’ Compliance Code.
Fairness and Consistency
We will treat all consumers and businesses fairly.
We aim to give positive feedback to businesses where it is due.
We will ensure that our enforcement practices are consistent – this means that we will adopt a similar approach in similar circumstances to achieve similar ends.
We will have regard to national guidelines in our decision-making processes.
Openness and Transparency
We are committed to the open provision of information and advice in a format that is accessible and easily understood.
We will ensure that there is always a clear distinction between those actions necessary to comply with the law, and those which we recommend as best practice but which are not compulsory.
Where businesses have acted against the law we may use publicity in order to raise awareness, to increase compliance and to improve monitoring of trade practices.
We may also publish the results of court proceedings and certain undertakings.
Supporting the local economy
One of our key roles is to encourage economic progress against a background of protection. Wherever possible, we will work in partnership with businesses to assist them in meeting their legal obligations.
Reducing enforcement burdens
If there is a shared enforcement role with other agencies, e.g. BEIS, DEFRA, HM Revenue & Customs, the Environmental Health Service or the Police, we will consider co-ordinating with these agencies to minimise unnecessary overlaps or time delays and to maximise our overall effectiveness.
3. Compliance with the Home Authority and Primary Authority Principles
The Home Authority Principle means that Gloucestershire based businesses, where they trade or provide services that impact beyond Gloucestershire, are able to get advice and support from us on matters such as legal requirements, changes to the law and so forth. This usually takes the form of a semi-formal relationship
In Gloucestershire, we support the Home Authority Principle, which has been developed to promote good enforcement practice and reduce burdens on business. The primary objective is to create a partnership, which will provide positive benefits to both parties.
We will therefore:
provide businesses for whom we are the ‘home authority’ with appropriate guidance and advice
maintain records of our contacts with ‘home authority’ businesses to reduce the amount of information they have to provide to us
support efficient liaison between local authorities
provide a system for the resolution of problems and disputes
In April 2009, the Regulatory and Enforcement Sanctions Act 2008 introduced the Primary Authority Principle – in contrast to the Home Authority Principle, this is a formal relationship.
A Primary Authority is a local authority registered by BEIS as having responsibility for giving advice and guidance to a particular business or organisation that is subject to regulation by more than one local authority. We will give due consideration to any business, based in Gloucestershire, who wishes to enter into such an arrangement. There may be a charge for this service, see website for more details.
4. Our Enforcement Actions
In deciding what enforcement action to take against an offender we will have regard to the following aims:
to change the behaviour of the offender
to eliminate any financial gain or benefit from non-compliance
to be responsive and consider what is the most appropriate sanction for the particular offender and the regulatory issue concerned
for the action to be proportionate to the nature of the offence and the harm/potential harm caused
to restore the harm caused by regulatory non compliance, where appropriate
to deter future non-compliance
The range of enforcement options available to us include the following:
a. No action
In certain circumstances e.g. where the detrimental impact on the community is small, contravention of the law may not warrant any action.
b. Indirect action
including referral to another authority or agency for information or action.
c. Verbal/written advice or warning
where an offence has been committed but is not thought appropriate to take any further action, in which case the suggested corrective action and a timescale will be given.
d. Fixed Penalty Notices
Certain offences are subject to Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) - they are recognised as a low-level enforcement tool.
Where legislation permits an offence to be dealt with by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), we may choose to administer a FPN on a first occasion, without issuing a warning. This avoids a criminal record for the defendant.
e. Penalty Charge Notices
Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) are prescribed by certain legislation as a method of enforcement by which the offender pays an amount of money to the enforcer in recognition of the breach.
Failure to pay the PCN will result in the offender being pursued in the County Court for non-payment of the debt.
A PCN does not create a criminal record and we may choose to issue a PCN without first issuing a warning.
f. Penalty Notice for Disorder
A Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND) is the fixed penalty option for anti-social behaviour such as the sale of alcohol to a minor
g. Statutory Notice
These are used as appropriate in accordance with relevant legislation, they usually require offenders to take specific action or to cease certain activities.
Some legislation permits our Officers to seize goods and documents that may be required as evidence
When we seize goods, we will give an appropriate receipt to the person from who they are taken
On some occasions, we may ask the person to voluntarily surrender the goods.
Some legislation allows us to apply to the court to seek forfeiture of goods, either in conjunction with a prosecution, or separately.
j. Undertakings and Injunctive action under the Enterprise Act
The range of actions under this legislation include the following:
requests for a business to take specific additional measures beyond their basic legal duties, e.g. moderating the way they do business or offering compensation to consumers. These are known as Enhanced Consumer Measures.
k. Review of Licences
Where there is a requirement for a business to be licensed by a local authority (e.g. Licensing Act) or other body, a review of the licence or permit may be sought where the activities or fitness of the licence holder is in question.
l. Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
Where the non compliance under investigation amounts to anti-social behaviour, then, following liaison with the relevant partners, where applicable, an appropriate order may be sought to stop the activity.
m. Taking animals into possession
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, if a veterinary surgeon certifies that ‘protected animals’ are suffering or are likely to suffer if their circumstances do not change, we will consider taking them into possession and applying for Orders for re-imbursement of expenses incurred and subsequent disposal
n. Caution in accordance with the current Home Office circular
To deal quickly and simply with less serious offences and to avoid unnecessary appearances in criminal courts. A formal or ‘simple’ caution is an admission of guilt but it is not a form of sentence, nor is it a criminal conviction - it may be cited in court in certain circumstances. A record of the caution will be recorded on the national sanctions database and will be passed to any other bodies that are required to be notified.
A prosecution will only be undertaken when the evidence passes the ‘Evidential Test’ and when it is in the public interest to do so – we will have regard to the Crown Prosecution Service Code of Practice.
Where it is necessary to carry out a full investigation, the case will be progressed without undue delay. All investigations into alleged breaches of legislation will be conducted in compliance with statutory powers and all other relevant legislation (and relevant Codes of Practice), including the requirements of:
· Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)
· Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA)
· Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)
· Human Rights Act (HRA).
As part of the investigation process, persons suspected of breaching legal requirements will, wherever possible,
· be formally interviewed in accordance with PACE
· be given the opportunity to demonstrate that a statutory defence is available
· have the opportunity to give an explanation or make any additional comments about the alleged breach.
Before a decision to prosecute is taken, the alleged offence(s) will be fully investigated, a report compiled by the Investigating Officer and the file reviewed by a Senior Manager.
We will take into account the views of any victim, injured party or relevant person to establish the nature and extent of any harm or loss, including potential harm and loss and its significance in making the decision.
p. Proceeds of Crime Actions
Their purpose is to recover the financial benefit that the offender has obtained from his criminal conduct. Applications may be made under the Proceeds of Crime Act for forfeiture of cash or confiscation of assets in serious cases. Proceedings are conducted according to the civil standard of proof. Applications for confiscation are made after a conviction has been secured.
5. Accessibility and Advice
Our contact details:
By post: Trading Standards Service, Tri-Service Centre, Waterwells Drive, Gloucester GL2 2AX
Telephone: 01452 887667
Opening hours: 09.30 – 16.00 (Monday – Friday)
(Please note we cannot accept personal callers without an appointment)
For consumer advice contact Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline:
Telephone: 0808 223 1133
6. What You Can Expect of Us
In the case of calls that could involve a high risk to consumer safety we aim to respond to 100% within one working day.
We aim to respond to all complaints and enquiries from the public made directly to this Service within five working days. Complaints and enquiries received by the Service via Citizens’ Advice Consumer Helpline will all be recorded for intelligence purposes. A personal response will only be made if, more information is needed or an intelligence led assessment of the complaint or enquiry determines that further investigation is required.
For general enquiries from businesses, we will acknowledge the enquiry within one working day and respond to enquiries within ten working days.
Enquiries made by businesses who have signed up to a primary authority partnership, we will acknowledge the enquiry within one working day and respond to enquiries within five working days.
If we are not able to deal with the enquiry within these times we will contact you to advise you of the date by which you can reasonably expect a response.
You are entitled to expect our staff to:
be courteous and helpful
identify themselves by name and produce identification if requested
provide a contact point for any further dealings
give clear and simple advice
confirm advice in writing on request, explaining why action is required and over what time-scale
clearly distinguish between what you must do to comply with the law and what is recommended as best practice
minimise the cost of compliance by requiring proportionate action
give you reasonable time to comply (unless immediate action is necessary in the interest of health, safety or to prevent evidence being lost)
notify you if the matter is to be reported for legal proceedings
advise you of the procedure for making a complaint or representations in cases of dispute
maintain confidentiality (subject to exchange of information with our enforcement partners through statutory information gateways)
Our Officers have a wide variety of powers which include the power to enter premises and inspect goods, to require the production of books, documents or records and, when necessary, the power to seize and detain such goods, books and documents that they believe may be required as evidence.
Officers may also take with them such other persons and equipment as may be necessary when exercising powers of entry.
In certain cases, they may exercise an entry warrant issued by a Magistrate in order to gain access to premises.
If individuals or businesses obstruct Officers, they may be liable to prosecution.
Before any legal action is taken there will be an opportunity to discuss the case, although if we are considering a prosecution it will be a formal interview.
Where a right of appeal against a formal action exists other than through the courts, advice on the appeal mechanism will be clearly set out in writing at the time the action was taken.
7. Our Commitment to You
This Policy and all associated enforcement decisions take account of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998. In particular, due regard is had to the following
Right to a fair trial
Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence
We are committed to providing open, equal and timely access to our services.
As we are continually seeking to improve our standards, this policy is subject to regular review.
8. Complaints, Compliments and Comments
If you are unhappy with the service you have received, or we have failed to live up to our promises, managers are always willing to discuss with you the cause of your dissatisfaction, and will try to find a solution.
If you wish to make a complaint or send us a compliment or comment about our service:
please contact the Head of Service at the address above, or
you can use Gloucestershire County Council’s online complaints procedure by going to http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/feedback or you can talk directly to your councillor.
If you are still not satisfied, and feel you have been caused injustice, we will tell you how to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
As we are continually seeking to improve our standards, this policy is subject to regular review.