The purpose of our enforcement policy is to protect consumers and legitimate businesses in West Sussex. It outlines how we deal with infringements of legislation and how these are dealt with by Trading Standards.
- When minor infringements are detected by officers, suggested corrective action and a timescale to comply will be provided in writing.
- Officers will distinguish between legal requirements and good practice advice.
- A person will be informed as soon as practicable when an investigation is pertinent to their business. This may be delayed in appropriate circumstances if the disclosure would undermine or otherwise prejudice the investigation.
- Investigations into alleged breaches of Trading Standards law will be progressed within a reasonable time.
- Before deciding to take any formal action, officers will provide an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the case and, if possible, resolve points of difference, unless immediate action is required (for example, in the interests of safety or to prevent evidence from being destroyed).
- Where immediate action is necessary, an explanation of why such action is required will be given at the time and confirmed in writing, in most cases within 5 working days and in all cases within 10 working days.
- Reports recommending formal criminal or civil law action will be given due consideration by a Trading Standards senior manager who will consider all relevant criteria before determining the appropriate enforcement outcome.
- Where a right of appeal against a formal action exists, other than through the courts, advice on the appeal process will be clearly set out in writing at the time the action is taken.
Our aim is to support and encourage businesses to comply with the law, however there will be circumstances where it may be necessary to consider formal action in order to deal with non-compliance, for example, where we identify unfair or unsafe trading practices.
Each breach of legislation will not automatically be the subject of prosecution or civil law action, but will be carefully considered on its own merits and appropriate action taken from a wide range of enforcement options such as:
- Advice and guidance: This approach will be used in appropriate circumstances where the business is willing to take action to comply with legislative requirements. The business will be contacted by Trading Standards to establish the facts and we will seek to bring into compliance (agreement).
- Referral to responsible primary authority or local trading standards service where the business is based - used where no direct action is deemed appropriate by this service but the matter has been referred by us to the trading standards service responsible for the business concerned for them to consider appropriate action.
- Written warnings: Used where an offence or an enforceable civil breach has been committed but on balance it is not considered appropriate to take further action at present.
- Statutory (legal) notices: Used as appropriate in accordance with relevant legislation, usually to obtain relevant information in order to allow us to make an informed decision regarding appropriate enforcement action.
- Simple caution - Considered as an option to deal quickly and simply with those who commit less serious crimes. It aims to divert offenders away from court and to reduce the likelihood of them offending again. There must be sufficient evidence of guilt to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and the party concerned must admit the offence and agree to be given a caution.
- Prosecution: Considered when appropriate as a way to secure compliance and/or to draw attention to the need for compliance with the law or where non-compliant businesses may be deterred from offending through the conviction of others.
- Proceeds of crime act 2002: Action will be considered in cases where the offender has benefited from the commission of an offence(s). The purpose is to recover the financial benefit obtained. Proceedings are conducted according to the civil standard of proof after a conviction has been obtained.
- Enterprise Act 2002: Action will be considered where an individual or business has breached domestic or community legislation and harmed the collective (group) interests of consumers and in particular where there have been persistent breaches or significant (losses suffered by) consumer(s) detriment. Action can include undertakings, enforcement orders and contempt proceedings.
- Other civil law orders: Considered in exceptional circumstances, for example, where antisocial behaviour is causing harm or distress to consumers.