Consumer advice

If you are a consumer who needs help or advice or if you want  to make a complaint about a business, report an illegal trader, scam or unfair trading practice, we have an agreement with the government funded Citizens Advice Consumer Service who will provide you with assistance.

The national Citizens Advice Consumer Service has experienced advisers to assess your reason for contacting them, review if it is a matter which they can assist you with or determine whether to pass it on to the relevant trading standards service. Advice that is commonly sought is available from Citizens Advice.

If you are unable to obtain the advice you need from their website, the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, telephone 03454 04 05 06.
To help the adviser, the business name and address along with a description of your complaint is required.

It is useful if you can provide information to support your complaint such as paperwork, including invoices or contracts, photos or video evidence, notes and dates of any conversations that have taken place and details of witnesses who could confirm what you're saying.

What if I just want to report something to, or discuss a problem with Trading Standards and I don’t want any help from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service?

All information received by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service is passed to trading standards departments, usually the same day for intelligence purposes or where deemed appropriate, for further investigation.

Will my complaint be investigated?

We are unable to investigate every complaint we receive. Complaints are assessed and only those deemed high priority will be subject to further intervention.

This could mean your individual complaint is not investigated. Nevertheless, please be assured that your complaint will be recorded onto our database and will provided us with information that will help us to identify areas of trade and which businesses are causing problems so that we can make decisions as to where we should prioritise our resources.

I live in Brent but want to complain about a business based somewhere else. Which trading standards do I contact?

The Citizens Advice Consumer Service will take care of this for you. They will pass your details to the local trading standards service where you live and at the same time, contact the trading standards service relevant to where the trader is based.

However, if your complaint is to be investigated by trading standards, it will usually be your local service who contacts you first.

I live in Harrow but have been advised that trading standards located at Brent’s Civic Centre are investigating my complaint. Is this correct?

Yes, it is. The London Borough of Brent has provided a trading standards service to the London Borough of Harrow on a joint consortium basis for over 50 years!

This means that your contact will be with Brent staff, even if you live in Harrow.

Can you recommend a reputable trader for me to use?

We are unable to recommend particular businesses for you to use. However, information about how to source a reputable trader is available from Citizens Advice.

 

Common consumer complaints

Loan sharks - advice and how to report

We work in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team investigating allegations of loan sharks lending money.

If you have any information, however small about loan shark activity, please do let us know.

Loan sharks deceive their victims into thinking that they are entering into a proper, legal binding agreement but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Often, loan sharks are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. They do not issue legally binding credit agreements and their terms and conditions mean that many victims soon find themselves owing the loan shark considerably more money than they borrowed even though they are making regular payments.

Loan sharks operate within local communities and portray themselves as offering a service to those who may not be able to easily obtain credit from high street lenders.

At first, victims do not always realise they are being conned but when the loan shark becomes aggressive, wants higher than agreed payments or takes a bank card or other possessions as security on a loan, a victim can become too scared or embarrassed to come forward and report the matter.

You can speak in confidence to the Illegal Money Lending Hotline on 0300 555 2222, email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or text loan shark and your message to 60003.

The team can give you help and advice about your situation.

Alternatively, if you are in debt or need assistance managing your finances, get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Rogue traders

Be aware that there are some unscrupulous traders and dubious businesses looking to deceive consumers. You should be alert to bogus charitable collections, dishonest doorstep callers and internet scams.

Say no to doorstep callers

A cold call is the act of making an unrequested or uninvited visit to your home. Most cold callers intend to sell you goods or services.

Consumers should be alert to the fact that not all traders turning up on your door are rogues. You will all be aware, however, of incidents where people have been the victim of a doorstep-crime or unscrupulous practice of one sort or another:

  • Paying an exorbitant price for house repairs or garden maintenance
  • Having to pay in cash in full before the job is finished
  • Being left with an incomplete job and refusal from the trader to finish the job or undertake necessary repairs
  • No way to get the job finished because you have only a mobile telephone number to trace the number
  • Having your possessions stolen whilst being distracted by a doorstep-caller/bogus official or their accomplice

There are laws that seek to protect you from unscrupulous traders ripping you off for goods and services supplied following a visit to your home.

Take action

  • Never agree to have work done by somebody who is just passing or take their word that it needs to be done at all
  • Never pay for anything before any work is done (even if they say you need to pay for the materials they will be using.)
  • Do not accept an offer from them to drive you to the bank to withdraw money
  • Pay by credit card for extra protection if the cost is over £100 or by crossed cheque
  • Do not agree to buy goods or services unless you are offered a written note of the trader's name and address, an indication of what goods or service will be provided and a cost. You should know how the cost will be calculated if charged per hour, and most importantly your right to cancel before the work is due to start (not required if cost under £35)

If you think work needs to be done then get quotes from other local companies and ask friends and relatives for a recommendation.

Cooling off period

The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008 protect consumers from traders who visit them at home whether they cold call you or you invite them to your premises. The regulations provide you with some legal protection if you agree to buy goods or services on the doorstep or in your home.

Bogus charity collections

Residents are advised to check whether a clothing collection is for charity before they donate their unwanted items. Some leaflets distributed to households are from genuine registered charities. However, many are not. At a glance, these leaflets look like they have come from a charity, but are actually from a company that profits from collections. Good quality clothing can be sold for over £1000 per ton.

The things to look for include:

  • Does the sack or leaflet say the collection is for a registered charity? If so, what's the registered charity number? Residents can call the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 to check whether a charity number is genuine
  • Does the sack or leaflet only give a registered company number? This just means the organisation is registered with Companies House. Their status can be checked at the Companies House website. It may show the company has been dissolved or wound up
  • Is the charity actually named? Be wary of wording that just says "families in need" or "for breast cancer prevention programme"
  • Does the leaflet or bag give a phone number? The absence of a phone number may mean the collectors don't want to answer questions

Unless trading standards are notified in advance of the collection date or are given details of the registration number of the vehicles used by the collector it will be very difficult to trace the trader afterwards.

Theft of laundry bags or genuine charities' collection bags should be reported to the police not trading standards.

Internet scams

Be aware of rogue websites which sell counterfeit goods, or which purport to sell goods or airline or other tickets but deliver nothing.

You may be offered credit, asked to fill in an application form. They may then phone you back offering you a loan but asking for advance fees (such as first month's repayment, currency transfer charges, legal fees) but never give you a loan. These criminals often impersonate a genuine UK company so checking at the OFT Consumer Credit Licence database will not help you.

Companies House

If the website does not clearly state the traders name and address, do not risk buying from them. Where the company name is given (ltd or plc.) you can check at the Companies House website (UK only).

The registration will also show when the business was set up, and its registered office address (often accountants or mailbox).

You can also check where and when the website was registered using 'who is' services at Network Solutions. Note: .CO.UK registration does not mean the company is based in UK. If the address information says 'non trading entity - address withheld' do not trust them.

The Distance Selling Regulations 2000 apply throughout the EC but Trading Standards can only regulate companies based in UK. For help with problems with a business based in another EC country contact The European Consumer Centre for Services.

Under-age sales

Certain goods cannot be sold to children. See a list of age-restricted products.

Under-age volunteers

We use child volunteers to conduct checks on shops, to see whether they sell these goods to under-age children. The checks are carried out using strict national guidelines.

If you are aged between 12 and 15 years old and interested in volunteering, contact us and we will arrange a meeting with you and your parent/guardian.

If you know of any shops selling cigarettes, knives, alcohol or other restricted products to children then please tell us.

Brent and Harrow Trading Standards is a partnership between Harrow Council and Brent Council.