National Trading Standards (NTS) prevented nearly £127 million in losses to consumers and businesses over the last year, new figures from the third annual Consumer Harm Report reveal. This represents an increase of more than a third on last year and takes the total losses prevented by NTS over the last three years to nearly half a billion pounds (over £471 million).
Figures from the report also show that NTS secured 104 criminal convictions last year, leading to 174 years in prison sentences being handed down. This represents a record number of convictions secured in a single year.
Convictions included the first conviction of a criminal operating copycat websites as well as the first conviction relating to the distribution of illegal Kodi and IPTV boxes (which allow users to illegally access premium and subscription TV content).
The Consumer Harm Report also warns consumers about potential emerging threats that could rise to prominence over the coming year including:
- Continued manipulation of online ticket retail sites by scammers and organised criminals including the expansion of the use ‘bots’ to mass purchase tickets for major events such as music concerts and sports matches
- Global criminal networks operating mass marketing frauds and using new tactics to avoid detection including mail arriving via third party countries and the use of ‘blank’ envelopes
- The growth of social media as a selling platform – putting consumers at risk of intellectual property crime and product safety issues as well as subscription traps and many other scams
- The risk posed by connected devices such as Smart TVs and home assistants which may leave consumers open to data theft
- Increasing sophistication of doorstep criminals who use websites, social media, fake reviews and are increasingly part of larger organised crime groups.
National Trading Standards Safety at Ports and Borders teams also saw a surge in unsafe items being blocked from entering the UK; in 2016/17 the teams prevented nearly 550,000 unsafe items entering the country, an increase of more than 20% on the previous year.
Furthermore in excess of £450,000 of compensation was awarded to victims last year because of NTS’ interventions.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“This year’s report shows the success National Trading Standards is having in tackling criminal activity and protecting consumers. Preventing nearly half a billion of losses to consumers and business over the last three years and a record year in terms of the number of convictions secured is something we are proud of. Our message to criminals is clear: we will not hesitate to prosecute you and bring you to justice.
“However, we cannot rest on our laurels or become complacent. We know that every day criminals are becoming more sophisticated and are exploiting new trends and technologies to find new ways to deceive and defraud consumers and legitimate businesses. As our report highlights there are a number of emerging threats to consumers; some of these are new threats such as the risks from connected devices but others are examples on criminals deploying new tactics in relation to old scams, such as mass marketing fraud.
“I would urge consumers to remain vigilant, to take care online and to look out for family members and neighbours. I’d also remind people to report anything suspicious to the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Consumer Minister Margot James said:
“The UK’s consumer protection regime is among the most robust in the world and this report shows how the system is working to save consumers tens of millions of pounds each year.
“I’m proud to support National Trading Standards’ efforts to help protect people from scams, dangerous goods, counterfeit products and sub-standard services, whether on-line, in the post or from rogue door-step traders.”
This Consumer Harm Report follows a recent report produced by the National Audit Office which found that by setting up National Trading Standards the government had improved the management of trading standards work and its integration into the overall consumer protection system.
The full Consumer Harm Report can be found here.
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case or for general enquiries about National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
About National Trading Standards
- National Trading Standards provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally
- The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
- National Trading Standards teams are based within local authority trading standards services
- For more information please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk