Trading standards - news
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.
How is your pension invested?
With effect from this month, April 2015, the Government have introduced new rules on drawing down your pension pot if aged 55 or over. This has meant that many people across the UK have automatically gained access to a great deal more money overnight. And, scammers know this.
Be aware of any fraudulent phone calls, emails or correspondence you receive offering financial advice and investments. Make sure you are comfortable with the trader you are engaging with and bear in mind:
- don’t just sign up over the phone; do your own research before you agree to anything. Are you familiar with the industry? If not, seek additional advice
- have you used them before or been recommended by someone trustworthy?
- speak with your accountant for any tax implications as a factor
- do they have a website? Is the site secure for credit/debit card details (check for the padlock sign)?
- have you read and understood the terms and conditions?
- are you buying from an abroad company? Whilst your contract will be covered by UK law, allowing you to sue in a local court, getting money from a foreign company may prove difficult
- bear in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it often is
If you have been scammed or ripped off using the internet, report the crime to Action Fraud, UK’s fraud and internet crime reporting centre. They can provide a central point of contact and give advice.
West Berkshire council have successfully prosecuted a fraudulent auction house. The fraud was committed over a number of years and has been a continued ongoing investigation. Jonathan King of Cameo Auctions has been sentenced to four years for fraud, for abusing his position and making false statements.
This case is a testament and example of a successful conviction of an unscrupulous trader. It also serves as a reminder to report any issues or concerns you have with a trader. It might be Trading Standards have an ongoing investigation with them and your evidence is what we need for a successful prosecution.
For more information on the recent case at West Berks, see getreading website.
Overloaded result - February 2015
In January this year a case regarding an overloaded vehicle in Bracknell has gone to court. The company, Perimeter Construction Limited, was prosecuted amounting to fines totalling £2,556.50 including costs for a vehicle 24.5 per cent overloaded with a rear axle 11 per cent above its maximum weight. Whilst a guilty plea was entered, the defendant did not attend court.
It is the responsibility of all road users to ensure their vehicle is not overloaded. Make sure you know what you put in the vehicle and the vehicle’s manufacturer weight limit. It should be noted that it is not only the employer and the owner of the overloaded vehicle that are liable to prosecution; it may also be the driver.
Puppy love - January 2015
Trading Standards have received numerous complaints regarding either the breed of the puppies or illegally imported and possibly sick puppies in the area.
Some unscrupulous puppy sellers have allegedly been buying litters from puppy farms and passing the animals off as being from a family home or from their own dogs. For more information on how this has affected Bracknell Forest, please see our press release.
Some tips to remember when buying a puppy:
- be suspicious if the seller cannot show you the puppy with its mother and litter mates. View the puppy where it was born
- get as much information about where the puppy has come from and beware if the seller is from outside the UK
- if the puppy has been vaccinated, ask to see the documentation - this must clearly state the veterinary practice and where this was carried out - be suspicious if the address of the veterinary practice is outside the UK
- if the seller informs you that the puppy has been brought in from another country it must have a pet passport or veterinary certificate and be more than 15 weeks of age
- NEVER agree to have the puppy delivered to your home address or to meet the seller to collect the puppy - if the seller wants you to do this be very suspicious
- NEVER pay for the puppy in advance
- always register your puppy’s microchip with a UK Database