Trading Standards Inspections
Trading Standards are a set of laws designed to protect consumers from unfair trading and allow them to support those that are trading legitimately. The Trading Standards organisation work to ensure that businesses do not mislead consumers by making untrue claims or providing counterfeit products, and that they do not carry out activities that could pose a danger to customers.
They are a government service that consumers can contact if they feel they have been misled in any way, pressured into a sale or put in danger as a result of business practices. Trading standards can then choose to investigate a business if they feel that any laws have been breached.
Trading standards may also choose to carry out routine inspections of premises to ensure compliance with regulations.
What is a Trading Standard Inspection?
Trading Standards Officers make regular disguised visits to business premises in the UK to check their practices comply with the law. They will also take this opportunity to investigate any areas of non-compliance, especially if concerns have been raised by a member of the public.
Licensed premises regularly undergo trading standards inspections to check that everything is above board. The main areas of law related to the alcohol and entertainment industries include weights and measures, the selling of age-restricted products, product safety and fair trading (accurate descriptions, fair pricing etc). The problem for bar managers is that even if you are meticulous in your devotion to best practice, it is still possible to fall under suspicion of wrongdoing.
Trading standards officers will not just take your word for it during an inspection. They will carry out their own checks, look at complaints, witness statement and previous business history and more to identify any areas of non-compliance.
Find out more about the tradings standards investigation process below.
What Powers do Trading Standards Have?
Trading standards officers have a wide range of powers across many industries including the agricultural industry, digital commerce, manufacturing and of course, hospitality.
In most cases, they are able to enter premises, carry out inspections and seize any materials that may be required as evidence under Schedule 5 to the Consumer Rights Act 2015. They may also have additional powers depending on the industry and legislation being enforced.
For a standard inspection, you must be given two days notice of the inspection in writing. However, if you have waived the need for this, if there is suspicion that you have broken the law or that consumers are at risk, or if written notice would affect the outcome of an investigation, this does not need to be given.
If you refuse entry to a trading standards officer, this could be deemed a criminal offence.
Tradings Standards in the Alcohol and Entertainment Industry
Within the alcohol and entertainment industries specifically, routine inspections are both necessary and common. You may not be given written notice of visits to licensed premises as the investigation may fall under public safety legislation. For example, if an age-restricted product such as alcohol was sold to an under-age consumer, this would pose a danger to them. TSO’s are legally allowed to carry out surveillance of business practices to ensure the law is not being broken.
Another common example of an issue that could be picked up by trading standards is the Evaporation">Evaporation of slow-moving spirits. If a bottle is hanging around at the back of a bar for a long time, evaporation of the alcohol can occur. This means that it has less alcohol by volume (ABV) than is advertised on the bottle or drinks menus etc. This could then trigger a trading standards investigation.
In addition to this, if you are suspected of Watering Down drinks, serving smaller measures or passing off counterfeit booze as the real thing you could end up facing Criminal Prosecution and a licence review.
The Trading Standards Investigation Process
If you are reported or suspected of breaking trading standards, an investigation may ensue. During the course of an investigation trading standards officers are able to:
- Investigate criminal offences with similar powers to that of the police
- Prosecute individuals and business in criminal court
- Seize any documentation or goods that can be used as evidence in their case
- Carry out covert and non-covert tests and inspect products to gather evidence against you
- Enter the premises without a warrant
- Ban you from selling certain products
Trading standards officers cannot close your business down without first applying to the Court for orders to restrict business activities.
Not all complaints to trading standards will result in an investigation, it will depend on a number of criteria including the vulnerability of consumers, the number of people affected, the level of risk of business practices and more.
Once an investigation has begun TSOs will, first of all, gather all necessary evidence. They will do this via premises inspections, tests and witness statements. After all the necessary evidence has been gathered they can choose to pursue a number of different enforcement options.
Trading Standards Enforcement
If you are deemed to be in violation of the law, trading standards officers have several options available to them to rectify the issue. Depending on the severity of the case they may choose to:
- Issue a caution or warning
- Issue a fixed-penalty notice
- Conduct a license review with the aim of revoking your premises license
- Pursue criminal prosecution
Not only could a trading standards investigation result in a criminal prosecution, but it can also affect the reputation of your business and could even result in a closure order.
If you discover you are under investigation by trading standards, contact us immediately.
How We Can Help
We are experts in the laws relating to the alcohol and entertainment industries. We are able to offer advice and support to licensed premises operating under UK law regarding trading standards regulations. In addition to this, if your business is under investigation from TSOs, we can help you every step of the way!
Expert Trading Standards Solicitors
As one of the largest specialist licensing solicitors in the UK, we can represent you in front of the authorities and help to minimise any potential damage to your licence.
We can also help to ensure that TSOs act within their powers. If you are found in breach of trading standards, our expert solicitors can help to put forward mitigating factors and offer advice that could help to lessen the penalty issued.
Factors that could help to reduce the penalty could include:
- A fast admission of guilt
- An offer of compensation
- A history of good character
For more information on trading standards investigations or if you require support from an expert solicitor, get in touch!
Proceeding undertaken in a proper Court on behalf of the public with the prupose of convicting guilty defendants and dispensing appropriate punishment.
The changing of a liquid into a gas, often under the influence of heat.
Trading Standards Officers
Act of behalf of businesses and members of the public enforcing laws concerning commerce and services.
Making an alcoholic beverage weaker by adding water or another solvent to it.