Food and DrinkHospitalityNews

Cost-of-Living Crisis Exposing UK Consumers to Unprecedented Risks

New research published by Trading Standards suggests that issues related to “cost-of-living” are at record levels and set to trigger unprecedented demand and pressure on services in the future. Data for 2021/22 indicates there has been a surge in a range of practices that are harming consumers – including a trebling in the volume of counterfeit goods seized. The findings come as the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) found that three quarters of UK adults are feeling more vulnerable due to the cost-of-living crisis and nearly half have seen a rise in scams.

Data from the new Impacts and Outcomes Report 2021/22, from ACTSO (the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers) highlights that the risks associated with the cost-of-living crisis is apparent across all work areas and is placing increasing demands on the Trading Standards Service.

Highlights from the report include:

• Over half a billion pounds of consumer detriment (£548 million) was prevented by Trading Standards across England and Wales
• A major increase in counterfeit goods with Trading Standards seizing over 4 million counterfeit products with a market value of £111M – three times more than the previous year
• The removal of over 4.2M unsafe/non-compliant products including dangerous toys, lights and phone chargers
• A significant increase in the amount of illicit tobacco, with 14.9M illicit cigarettes seized
• Over 7000 businesses were found to have supplied food that was misdescribed, didn’t declare allergens or was adulterated with toxins
• Concerns that consumers are more at risk of being scammed, with 17,600 scam victims supported and approximately £47M of money saved by Local Authority Trading Standards in 2021/22.

The data for 2021/22 chimes with a new CTSI survey which highlights that across the UK, Local Authority Trading Standards teams have seen an increase in cost-of-living related demands with around one quarter reporting both an increase in consumers who are vulnerable and in scams and rogue traders.

Chief Executive at CTSI, John Herriman said
“This latest research not only demonstrates the significant impact that Trading Standards makes to protect consumers and businesses, but it also suggests that our cost-of-living crisis is likely to exacerbate already high levels of detriment UK consumers are facing.

“The current economic situation is inevitably causing consumers and businesses to tighten their belts, but in consequence unscrupulous and rogue traders are exploiting this increased vulnerability. The data clearly shows not only the significant impact Trading Standards is making to address consumer detriment but also that the risks to consumers from scams, counterfeit and illicit goods, and false and misleading prices are on the rise.”

“It is imperative to the national economy that that we build and maintain consumer confidence, and this is very much dependent upon us having confidence in the integrity of businesses. By tackling unscrupulous practices whether that is preventing food fraud or removing counterfeit goods, Trading Standards is an absolutely vital component in underpinning confidence in businesses and from consumers, and ultimately helping the UK steer the choppy waters ahead.”

Steve Ruddy, Chair of ACTSO, said of the latest report:
“Our latest Impact and Outcomes data shows the sheer scale of how much Trading Standards teams save consumers and businesses in tackling detriment, preventing harm, and providing advice and support.”

“It is clear that in this cost-of-living crisis, the risks to consumers from the safety of illicit and counterfeit goods, scams, false claims about prices, and energy efficiency are all growing. Trading Standards has a vital role to play in addressing all of these risks; demands are continuing to grow for what are already very stretched services.”