Britons want tougher rogue trader lawsNew rules will make it harder for cowboy traders

18 April 2008

A picture of an anxious man on the phone

You can buy dental insurance over the phone as a stand alone product

Almost all Britons want tougher laws governing aggressive and unfair sales practices, according to research.

A survey for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulation ahead of new consumer protection regulations to be introduced next month found 96% of people want a crackdown on rogue traders.

The poll of 2000 people found 90% have had pushy salesmen at the door or on the phone, while 82% had received repeated calls from the same firm despite telling them they were not interested.

Another 43% of consumers said they had been duped into buying something after receiving misleading information, and 94% had ‘won’ a competition they never entered.

Consumer law

The new regulations are due to come into force on May 26 and are expected to bring the biggest change to consumer legislation in 40 years.

They will ban 31 types of unfair sales practices outright, including bogus closing down sales. Prize draws and doorstep selling also face new rules.

A catch-all duty not to trade unfairly will also be introduced, closing loopholes that rogue traders have previously been able to exploit.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said: ‘Consumers have the right to be treated honestly and fairly whether shopping on the high street, at home, through a catalogue or online.

‘Life is going to get tougher for the small minority of rogue traders who treat customers with contempt, pressuring, bullying or lying their way into making a sale. These practices will not be tolerated.’

Unlimited fines

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Trading Standards will enforce the new rules.

Businesses breaking the law face unlimited fines and prison sentences, depending on the seriousness of the offending.

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), said: ‘TSI welcomes these regulations.

‘Front line Trading Standards professionals will be even better placed to disrupt, expose and appropriately penalise those rogue and unfair traders who persist in cheating and defrauding consumers.

‘Working with the OFT we are determined to bring the cowboys and criminals to task and support the swathe of honest businesses, large and small, who are as fed up as consumers with those who use unfair practices and perpetrate crime.’