Trading standards - news
Peoples' Postcode Lottery
Recent scam activity in the borough has included the “Peoples Postcode Lottery” on its list of prize draws, sweepstakes and foreign lottery scams.
Prize draws, sweepstakes and foreign lottery scams say you have won a prize and that all you need to do is pay an 'administration' or ‘release’ fee. However you will end up with nothing or a cheap item that's worth less than the fee. The scam may also ask you to:
- call a premium-rate phone number (beginning 090) - you will hear a message that tricks you into staying on the phone for a long time
- provide personal or financial information for 'identification' which they will use this to steal your money
A copy of the letter received in Bracknell can be seen below. The local resident who received the letter did not provide any personal details or pay any money.
The real People's Postcode Lottery says it will not under any circumstances request a payment to receive any prize. If you get an offer for a lottery or competition you have not entered, always ignore it.
Personally addressed junk mail can be reduced by contacting the Mailing Preference Service.
If you receive such a letter please do not respond but instead contact the council's trading standards service on 01344 352000.
Spooktacular Halloween Advice
Keep your little ghouls and witches SAFE this October:
See that the costume fits properly to avoid trips and falls
Always check costumes for a CE mark, instructions and safety information
Flames should be kept away from the child and costume, or use LED lights
Ensure any masks or hoods don’t stop the child from seeing, or breathing
Things to consider when buying a child’s costume:
- has it got a CE marking? Be aware that CE markings can be faked by counterfeiters or those looking to cut corners
- who are you buying it from? Are you in a reputable shop? Be extra careful when purchasing online
- check the packaging and labels - make sure the packaging and garment contain the manufacturer’s name or registered trademark
- check for product recalls - search for “CTSI Recalls” in your preferred search engine for a comprehensive list
- check safety instructions - ensure the product is accompanied by safety information and instructions where applicable
Charging for single use carrier bags
From 5 October 2015 all retailers in England with 250 or more employees who sell goods in England or deliver goods to England are required to charge 5p per single use carrier bag which is:
- unused - it’s new and has not been used for sold goods to be taken away or delivered
- made of plastic and 70 microns thick or less (paper bags are exempt)
- has handles, an opening and isn’t sealed
Some exemptions apply including bags used for fresh meat and fish, returnable multiple reuse bags (bags for life) and bags used in a service where no sale takes place (such as dry cleaning).
The aim of the change is to reduce the number of single use bags and to get consumers to reuse more bags. Similar schemes are running in Wales and Scotland. Wales alone saw a reduction in plastic bag consumption of 79 per cent in the first 3 years.
It is expected that businesses will donate all proceeds from these bags to good causes, particularly environmental causes and report on this annually, hopefully raising millions of pounds for charity.
Mobile phone recycling centre prosecuted
Mr Sathiharam Balasingam, whose business operated under the trading name of Cash My Fone, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment (suspended for two years), 200 hours community service and banned from being a director of a company for two years, and has been ordered to pay a costs award of £18,000.
The company had repeatedly offered a higher price than competitors for recycling mobile phones and once enticed in consumers were fobbed off with a lower price due to significant damage (not there when the phone was sent off) or not having their phone returned if requested. Further issues included the posting of reviews online by staff members posing as satisfied customers.
The investigation run by Bracknell Forest Council took nearly two years to bring to court and involved consumers from all over the UK. It finally reached a satisfying conclusion on 25 September 2015 at Reading Crown Court.
Read the full press release in Trading standards put a stop to dishonest trader.
Online scam warning
Thames Valley Police are warning of a current online scam aimed at consumers.
Fraudsters have created a high specification website template advertising flat screen televisions for sale which are below market value and do not exist. Payment is being requested via bank transfer and will offer no protection to the consumer when the television does not arrive.
- payments made via bank transfer are not protected should you not receive the item.
- always make payment via a credit card or PayPal where you have some avenue of recompense should you not receive your product.
- conduct some online research on the website; company name and business address to identify any poor feedback or irregularities.
- check the authenticity of websites before making any purchases. A ”whois” search on the website will identify when the website has been created, so be wary of newly formed domains. This search can be conducted using the following website who.is.
- if the item advertised seems too good to be true, it probably is
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud you can report it online at Action fraud or by telephone on 0300 123 2040.
Chicken Challenge Summer Campaign 2015
Summer is here, time for school holidays, picnics and barbecues. The Food Standards Agency is running a Chicken Challenge Campaign during the summer to make people aware of the potential of catching the food bug campylobacter.
Summer's the time for school holidays and season for barbecues, picnics and outdoor fun. For a perfect summer, we're saying be careful when preparing chicken for the kids, as they're particularly vulnerable to the food bug known as campylobacter.
Four in 5 cases of campylobacter come from contaminated poultry so the Food Standards Agency are recommending people follow these four simple rules to reduce the likelihood of catching the bug:
- store raw chicken separately from other food, covered and chilled on bottom shelf of fridge
- don’t wash raw chicken because it can splash germs around your kitchen
- wash everything that has touched raw chicken in soap and hot water – your hands and utensils
- check chicken is cooked thoroughly – no pink meat, steaming hot and juices run clear
Visit the Food Standards Agency website for more information.
July 2015 - Scam awareness month
Top scam awareness tips:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- If you haven’t bought a lottery ticket, you can’t win it.
- Never give out your bank details unless you’re certain you can trust the person contacting you.
- If you think something sounds a bit suspicious, take your time & don’t be pressured into quick decisions.
- Your bank will never ask for your PIN
- Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix your computers
- Don’t be rushed, don’t be hushed, genuine pension advisers don’t pressure you into a decision or tell you to keep it secret
- Scam victim? Don’t suffer in silence, help others be scam aware.
- If you’re rung out of the blue, be suspicious. If you get a lot of cold calls, use TrueCall or CallBlocker to block unwanted phone calls. You can also sign up to telephone preference service register.
- Want to avoid cold callers on your doorstep? Get a sticker for your front door from your local Trading Standards or police force.
Action Fraud UK has a handy A-Z to help you stay scam aware.
If you suspect you’re the target of a scam, get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.
Illegal tobacco sales are not a victimless crime it affects the community and young people. The illicit tobacco trade damages local legitimate businesses, undermines public health and puts young and vulnerable people in danger. Other areas that illegal tobacco affects are:
- health - those who sell illegal tobacco don’t care who they sell it to. Sellers often target children and young smokers making it easier for them to become hooked on smoking from an early age. The content of illegal tobacco is not necessarily compliant with industry standards and can be more harmful to individuals’ health.
- safety - young and vulnerable people tend to visit such sellers at their homes however this puts them in risky situations, often such sellers are associated with alcohol, drugs and stolen goods.
- crime - sellers have been linked with various crimes such as money laundering, people trafficking and criminal gangs; illegal cigarettes are but one aspect of their shady business.
- schools and hospitals - money going to these illegal sellers robs the taxpayer of money from legal cigarette sales that could be spent on schools and hospitals.
Work has been undertaken in Bracknell to combat the illegal tobacco trade, but it is an ever present issue. Local intelligence helps us tackle the matter in the area, if you have any knowledge about these matter, please call Bracknell Forest Council on 01344 352000 and ask for Trading Standards or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report anonymously.
Ofcom charges change
Clearer phone charges have been agreed by Ofcom which means that from 1 July:
- freephone service numbers, those beginning 0800 and 0808, will soon be free for the public to call not only from landlines but mobiles as well
- they have also capped the charges from premium numbers starting with 09, these are often used by rogue traders and can lead to very high bills
- confusion over the cost of 084 and 087 calls should hopefully decrease as well following the decision to break the cost into two separate charges, one (the access charge) to the phone operator and one (the service charge) to the recipient
- Ed Richards, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said: "These changes will be the biggest for UK telephone customers in more than a decade. We expect them to restore people's confidence in using phone services, and to increase competition."
Freephone will mean free for all consumers, and the cost of calling other services will be made clear. Telephone users will be able to see how much they're paying, and where their money is going.
Cold calling update
Before 6 April 2015 the Information Commissioner could only prosecute companies for cold calling when they could prove that the call has caused “substantial damage or substantial distress” to customers. But from 6 April 2015 new legislation has removed this requirement, making it easier for cold calling companies to be prosecuted by the ICO and imposing fines of up to £500,000.
Whilst this is welcome news, it is important to remind Bracknell Forest residents to be aware of the dangers of cold calling and follow a few simple rules.
- ask cold callers to remove your information from their records
- find out caller's number from a landline by dialling 1471 after the call
- check with your phone company if you can be made ex-directory
- register your phone number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) at www.tpsonline.org.uk or call 0875 070 0707
- give away personal or financial information, even if callers claim to be from a company you know
- lose your temper. Be firm and hang up if the caller refuses to go away.
- call back phone numbers left on your voicemail, or reply to text messages you don’t recognise.