If you are trying to contact Trading Standards then it is probably for one of these three reasons:
- You want to report or complain about a business
- You are having a problem and need advice on your rights
- You are a business and need advice on Trading Standards legislation
In an ideal world you would contact Trading Standards, they would give you what you wanted and everyone would go home happy. In reality it is not always as simple as that. On this page I explain how to contact Trading Standards and what to expect.
Firstly, it is important to understand that every council area has its own Trading Standards department – therefore you will have a local Trading Standards department (see below on how to find your local department). Every Trading Standards department is generally responsible for looking after the people and businesses in its own area.
There is also the Citizen Advice consumer service. The consumer service was created to provide one place for everyone to go to get advice on their problems and to report issues to Trading Standards. Quite often you will find that when trying to contact Trading Standards you will be asked to contact the Citizens Advice consumer service in the first instance. The consumer service basically acts like a call centre for all of theTrading Standards departments. They will take down the details of your issue and provide you with advice. Every complaint goes on a database which is accessible by every Trading Standards. To find out a bit more about the Citizens Advice consumer service pelase check out this post.
You can be assured that if you contact the Citizens Advice consumer service the details of your complaint will be made available to your local Trading Standards and the Trading Standards where the business is based (assuming you provide addresses).
The Citizens Advice consumer service will provide you with advice (if needed) and put the information on a database which is accessible by Trading Standards. What Trading Standards do with the information is up to them.
Generally one of four things will happen with your complaint.
1. Trading Standards will not need to do anything or choose not to do anything.
2. Trading Standards will contact you and offer further advice (if your problem is too complex for Citizens Advice and extra advice is a service your local Trading Standards offer).
3. Trading Standards may contact you to obatin more information to assist them with their enquiries into a particular business.
4. Trading Standards don’t contact you but use the information you provide to take up issues with businesses. This is by far the most common outcome in my department.
The Citizens Advice database contains a huge amount of data that allowes Trading Standards to see which businesses are causing the most problems. In the majority of cases Trading Standards won’t need to contact the person complaining directly but can use the information on the database to make businesses comply with the law. Therefore once you have made your complaint to the Citizens Advice consumer service it is unlikely you will hear back from Trading Standards unless you are told you will.
For each of the three reasons for contacting Trading Standards given above, here are my suggested ways of contacting Trading Standards.
You want to report or complain about a business
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service. The details of your complaint will then go on a national database for the relevant Trading Standards to pick up. I suggest you read my post on making a complaint so you can see what type of information you should provide.
You are having a problem and need advice on your rights
You can try contacting your local Trading Standards office or you can go directly to the Citizens Advice consumer service. You will probably find that the majority of Trading Standards require people to go to the Citizens Advice consumer service. Some Trading Standards can offer more detailed help if necessary (but very few Trading Standards offer this extra help now due to budget cuts).
You are a business and need advice on Trading Standards legislation
Most Trading Standards departments will offer business advice (though they may charge for it) so try contacting them directly. If for some reason you cannot get through then call the Citizens Advice consumer service. They will either advise you or pass the details of your query on to your local Trading Standards.
How do I contact my local Trading Standards?
There are 197 Trading Standards Departments in England, Scotland and Wales.
Your local Trading Standards will be a part of the council to which you pay council tax (or business rates for businesses).
Depending on where you live the Trading Standards department will be a part of your borough, city or county council. Some councils share Trading Standards departments.
To find your local Trading Standards simply go to this website and enter your post code (the search box is at the bottom). You will then be given the address, website and phone number for your local Trading Standards. I recommend you visit their website first to see whether they will take contact directly or whether they require you to go to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
Northern Ireland has one department called the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment.
Why can’t I contact Trading Standards directly?
The simple fact is most departments don’t have enough staff to deal directly with members of the public – not only is it time consumer to actually provide the advice and input onto a database – the sheer number of people wanting help would overwhelm most Trading Standards departments. The Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides this service for us anyway, so some Trading Standards departments opt to rely on Citizens Advice to handle all contact from the public.
After you contact Citizen Advice you may hear back from Trading Standards if:
a) You have a complex issue which requires further help (and your local Trading Standards offers it)
b) Your complaint is useful for an investigation and Trading Standards need further information
I want to complain about a business in a different area to where I live. Shouldn’t I write directly to the businesses local Trading Standards?
There are occasions where Trading Standards will speak directly to people outside their area but there are a lot of reasons why they won’t. The main reason is quite simple: we have limited resources and priority goes to helping people who pay us their council tax. We spend a lot of time sending letters and e-mails back to people telling them to go back to their local Trading Standards.
The proper procedure should be that you contact your local Trading Standards – they provide you with advice if necessary. If they feel the issue warrants further investigation they can investigate or pass the details of your complaint onto the relevant Trading Standards.
If you contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, your complaint will go on a database and will be available to both your local Trading Standards and the one where the business is based. Therefore it is the most efficient way of making a complaint as it saves your local Trading Standards putting your complaint on their own database and then sending it to the other Trading Standards who then have to put it onto their system.
If you have a burning desire to contact a Trading Standards outside of the area in which you live (i.e. a different council) then you should not be surprised if they tell you to go back to your local Trading Standards. If you just want to raise an issue but don’t necessarily want help then I would suggest you make it clear that you are contacting them to make them aware of something in their area but don’t want or expect to be contacted back.