Trading Standards Consultation

Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) is seeking to consult on issues relating to the TSS team and local trading standards services.

The main part of the consultation concerns the linkages between the national team and local services. We would like to explore where greater use could be made of the national team and how we might combine our efforts with local services for maximum effect.
We are acutely aware of the ongoing workforce issues within the trading standards service across the country and are keen to work with partners to explore how these issues might be addressed.
Below there are suggestions on where the TSS team could potentially add capacity at a local authority level. Some of these areas would need to be further developed to ensure any legal issues were taken in to account and properly addressed. The principle behind all of these areas is to further develop partnership work and to support local communities more effectively and efficiently but not to fill current gaps in funding.

We would like to invite you to input your views on these suggestions using this form. We would also welcome additional suggestions should you have them.
The responses to this consultation will be used in upcoming discussions with the UK Government on strengthening the public enforcement arm of the consumer protection regime. The information will also be used in discussions with the Scottish Government through their recently established Consumer Network.
We would welcome your input on these issues by 6th January 2021.

Enterprise Act
The civil provisions of the act are generally underused for a number of reasons mainly expertise, confidence, capacity and financial. A central Enterprise Act team could be developed which would include appropriately qualified legal staff to take forward actions on behalf of local authorities or to support local authorities in that work.
Some further development is required on how this would work in terms of authorisation and delegation of powers etc. particularly if TSS is to continue in its current form and without the status of being a general enforcer under the Act.
This approach would greatly strengthen the civil enforcement of consumer issues and with appropriate use of enhanced consumer measures ensure that consumer detriment was minimised.
Trainee Program

It is widely acknowledged that the trading standards workforce is declining and will continue to do so without significant new investment aimed at bringing in new staff. The national team could play a significant role in coordinating and managing a trainee program to ensure that the burden of training was appropriately spread across local authorities and that on completion of training staff were placed at the point of greatest need. The central management of the system would ensure that the workforce is built back up in a more equitable manner. Currently only larger local authorities would be capable of providing support to a trainee officer with the likelihood that those authorities would replace staff but smaller authorities would continue to see their staff cohort shrink. Central coordination of this program could also facilitate a proactive approach to building a diverse workforce.

Training
As the workforce diminishes, skills and experience are being lost and a comprehensive training program is required to replace these. Another factor to consider is that officers need new and different skills to cope with the changing environment – more and more commerce online, increase in peer to peer trade, data being used to influence transactional decisions, use of cryptocurrency etc.
CTSI currently take a lead role in providing training to the trading standards profession but there could be a significant role for the national team to play where training needs are related to the enforcement of national priorities. Particular training needs required for enforcement in these areas could be identified and training developed and delivered or supported by the national team. In particular this could involve ongoing training and provision of equipment in relation to investigations taking place on the internet.
Over the last 6 months the TSS team have conducted in house training virtually and would be in a position to do this for local authority staff.
Forensic Capability
One barrier to conducting investigations can be the expertise and costs associated with the seizure of digital storage devices including smart phones. With a relatively limited investment in equipment and training TSS could provide a central resource for the examination of phones which have been seized as evidence during an investigation. It is unclear just how much call there would be for this service but it may well be that officers are not currently seizing what can be a very valuable evidence source because of difficulties in conducting examinations.
A more significant investment would be required in order to provide TSS with the skills and equipment to conduct forensic examination of computers.
Financial
TSS already maintain a pot of funding that local authorities can draw on to fund Enterprise Act actions but this has not been fully used over the past couple of years. Some of this may be down to the issues touched on above and internal capacity to take on civil actions.

Further funding pots could be established, were extra funding available, which could be directed to local authorities to allow them to take on particular areas of work that may be beneficial to BEIS and the development of consumer policy. This could operate in a similar way that OPSS provide funding to tackle problem issues.

Intelligence
TSS run the national intelligence hub for trading standards in Scotland but the analytical capacity within the team is required for the national team itself. If there were extra resource available at the centre, regional intelligence analysts could be appointed to support the work being done at a local level. This would further strengthen the intelligence led approach to enforcement and ensure that scarce resources were targeted most effectively.
Best Practice
Often TSS will be at the forefront of developing new investigative techniques or dealing with new technology during the course of an investigation. A good example of this is the recent work done in relation to illicit IPTV streams. TSS can produce best practice guidance on how to conduct particular investigations or deal with technological issues. Some work has already been done in this area in relation to internet based investigations. The development and promulgation of best practice guides could link back to training that the national team could deliver.
Wider Impact of Consumer Protection Work
Consumer protection work often impacts on other areas that fall under the responsibility of local government and other public bodies. This can be demonstrated in the work done to prevent people falling victim to scams and the long term effect this can have on people’s confidence and their ability to live independently for longer. There are links between consumer protection and public health more generally and there are advantages to be gained in ensuring that those linkages are identified and exploited.
TSS can provide a central point for linking through to other parts of local government and other public bodies such as Public Health Scotland and Food Standards Scotland.