UK trading standards stops more than 20m illegal products from reaching consumers
By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Correspondent
Trading standards stopped more than 20 million illegal and potentially dangerous cigarettes, toys, electricals and cosmetics reaching consumers over the past year, it has said.
The haul by local teams in England and Wales included 15 million cigarettes and more than 4.2 million counterfeit products, according to the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers report.
Officers prevented at least £42 million of consumer harm over the past year, as well as prosecuting more than 1,100 people for criminal offences resulting in a total of 317 years of prison sentences.
Teams recovered £4.9 million in proceeds of crime and prevented £26.5 million being handed over to doorstep criminals, while the service supported 11,000 scam victims, saving them £4 million.
The report also revealed that officers found 3,399 businesses were supplying food that was mis-described, did not correctly declare allergens, contained toxic or illegal components or was involved in food fraud.
Trading standards received around 500,000 complaints last year and undertook 43,000 investigations.
The report said local officials have seen a "significant reduction" in resources in recent years as part of a wider cut in funding available to local government.
Trish Caldwell, chairwoman of the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers, said: "This report clearly shows the massive impact that local trading standards services have in protecting our communities.
"The work of local trading standards officers delivers huge value - from saving consumers millions of pounds to supporting some extremely vulnerable victims.
"That trading standards officers have prevented over 20 million illegal products reaching consumers in the last year alone shows the scale of the threat they are responding to. Many of these products could have caused significant injury, and in some cases could have even led to fatalities.
"This report shows the incredible value that local trading standards have delivered despite the significant reduction in resources that trading standards teams across the country have experienced in recent years as part of the wider reduction in funding available to local government."
Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "This report shows that councils' trading standards teams work hard to protect the public from doorstep and online scams, rogue traders and loan sharks, and the huge impact this work has.
"The next government needs to ensure councils are adequately funded so they can continue to take effective action at a local level against criminals and provide the vital local regulatory services that keep residents safe."