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. Call: 0808 223 1133.
When you call, please make sure you have the name of the business and their address, and be ready to give them a clear description of your complaint.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
- 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 Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and Consumer Rights Act 2015 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? You can check to see if a charity number is genuine by visiting the Charity Commission website. You can also call them on 0300 066 9197. The Charity Commission Contact Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
- 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.
Sadly, there are endless online scams where fraudsters will relentlessly keep trying to trick people into giving away their money or personal information.
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.
International Consumer Issues
Trading Standards can only investigate businesses located within the UK. If your problem relates to a business located overseas, you can speak to the UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) which delivers free support and advice for UK consumers who have made purchases from European companies as well as some non-European countries.
Certain goods are age-restricted and cannot be sold to children
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 have a child aged between 12 and 15 years old and think they would be interested in volunteering, get in touch with us to find out more. Email: email@example.com and we will arrange a meeting with you and your child.
If you know of any shops in Brent or Harrow selling cigarettes, knives, alcohol, nicotine inhaling products or other restricted products to children, then please tell us. You can call the Citizens Advice phone line: 0808 250 5050 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org