If you or your business are being investigated for unfair trading practices, including an allegation that you have made misleading claims or omissions about your product or service then you should seek the advice of a leading business crime solicitor, like Jim Meyer, who specialises in defending those who are being investigated by a local authority’s Trading Standards Services (“TSS”).
👉 You want to achieve the best possible result 👈
- Avoid any enforcement action altogether
- Avoid damaging court proceedings
- Avoid criminal conviction
- Mitigate sentence
Assembling the right legal team to advise and actively defend you will be one of the most important actions that you take.
Jim Meyer will do all that he can to ensure the best possible outcome.
The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 made it an offence for businesses or salespeople to sell a product or service based on misinformation and whilst it is technically still valid, it has been largely superseded by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Both corporate entities and private individuals can be prosecuted; directors, managers, secretaries or officers of companies (or any person purporting to act as such) can also be personally liable if they are found to have caused a company to offend by their “consent or connivance” or “neglect”.
Of course, if a business is convicted it faces the prospect of reputational damage and a potentially ruinous unlimited financial penalty; individuals who are found guilty risk a “directors’ disqualification” but worse than that they can be imprisoned for up to 2 years. You also need to be aware that a local authority TSS can (and does) opt for prosecutions under mainstream criminal legislation, most notably the Fraud Act 2006, and calling upon Jim’s 27 years' of criminal litigation experience can make all the difference to the outcome:
- There are statutory defences that can be deployed;
- There are time limits that the prosecuting authority needs to observe.
The bottom line is that you need to manage the risk of TSS scrutiny by engaging expert legal advice; even if it is simply to limit the damage of an adverse finding, there are things that can be done.
Contact a specialist defence solicitor as soon as you become aware of a Trading Standards investigation
Trading Standards Services has wide-ranging powers, now consolidated under schedule 5, part 1 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which include:
- The power to require the production of information;
- The power to require the production of documents;
- The power to purchase products (“test purchases”);
- The power to observe the carrying on a of business;
- The power of entry without warrant;
- The power of entry with a warrant;
- The right to require assistance from persons on premises;
- The power to inspect products;
- The power to test equipment;
- The power to seize and detain goods;
- The power to seize documentation required as evidence;
- The power to switch off or decommission fixed installations;
- The power to break open containers.
If you are on the receiving end of such a power, it is essential you take immediate legal advice. Jim has a detailed knowledge of the procedures TSS is required to follow and if you are facing an enforcement action or prosecution he can provide expert advice at every stage. This includes:
- Gathering evidence;
- Attending an interview under caution;
- Providing written statements;
- Representing you at Court;
- Protecting the future of your business following an investigation or prosecution by the regulator.
Whilst prosecution is generally reserved for those cases where there has been persistent and serious flouting of the law, this is not always the case. Involving Jim at an early stage will allow him to positively influence what will happen.
Providing support to potential witnesses when they speak to trading standards and in advance of them giving evidence
Because Jim is a defence specialist with over 27 years‘ experience of criminal litigation, he is often asked to advise and provide support to potential witnesses when an investigating authority, such as the TSS, indicates it wishes to speak to them. Jim provides the reassurance that the individual’s rights, including the right not to incriminate oneself, are protected and that the witness provides the best evidence (s)he can; in advance of any meeting Jim will do his best to ensure that the format for the questioning is understood, the topics for discussion are fully appreciated and that the witness is properly prepared for these.
Jim is also able to provide familiarisation training to witnesses who are to be called to give evidence during proceedings; using his 27 years‘ experience as a contentious litigator, Jim will make sure the witness has a complete understanding of the theory, practice and procedure of giving evidence and what is expected of them. This includes orientating the witness with:
- The layout of the court room;
- The likely sequence of events when the witness will be giving evidence;
- The different responsibilities of the various people at the hearing.
Relevant case law in relation to trade description prosecutions