How we decide to take action
The Trading Standards Service’s mission is to promote and maintain a fair trading environment, protect consumers and help businesses to thrive. We are obliged under consumer protection legislation to carry out certain functions, such as enforcing weights and measures legislation. In addition to these duties, we have discretion in relation to taking action in areas where we think we can make the most impact for consumers and businesses. With a very broad mandate and limited resources it is not possible to investigate every complaint we receive, nor can we pursue every issue. Therefore, we must prioritise our work. By prioritising our work we can focus our resources in the areas which will result in the greatest benefits to consumers, businesses and the economy. For example, prioritising helps us decide on the types of enforcement actions, advocacy issues, public awareness initiatives or other activities that TSS might choose to carry out in order to improve consumer and business welfare.
How we prioritise
In order to help us to achieve our mission and to be transparent in our choice of activities, we have developed the following four high level prioritisation principles. They are:
- level of economic and/or physical harm
- likely impact of the action taken by the Trading Standards Service
- strategic significance
- risks, resources and costs
A common theme running through all the principles is that all decisions to act will be underpinned by information and evidence gathered as a result of market intelligence, contacts to Consumerline, research and investigation and regulatory good practice. Information is then evaluated and processed to identify the source and scale of the problem, in particular the level of consumer harm; in many cases this will be financial, but not exclusively as non-monetary impacts will assessed also i.e. physical, psychological, community impact, public expectation and environmental.
Level of economic and/or physical harm
We will take into account any direct effect on consumers or the competitive process in relation to price, quality, safety and choice of goods or services. We will also take into account the level of potential harm to consumers and businesses, as well as the potential damage to consumers and/or the wider economy if the issue or behaviour is not addressed.
Likely impact of the action taken by the Trading Standards Service
We will consider the potential impact of our action on the issue or behaviour in question. We will also take into account any other parties which could be directly or indirectly affected.
We will consider whether we are the best-placed organisation to investigate or issue guidance on a particular issue or whether, for example, a sectoral regulator is better placed to act. We will take action where we believe our intervention will result in an improvement to the general welfare of consumers.
We will consider the timeliness of any action we may take from a strategic perspective and whether the matter is of particular importance in terms of our mission, vision and goals.
Is the Trading Standards Service best placed to act? Alternatives to TSS action could include - private civil enforcement or action by TSS partners such as members of the Consumer Protection Partnership other UK regulators or law enforcement bodies
Risks, resources and costs
What is the likelihood of a successful outcome? We will weigh up the likely effect of the issue or behaviour in question, as well as the influence that our action might have. This will be assessed against the risks involved in any particular project, as well as the potential resource requirements and costs involved. We are very much aware that we are funded by public money. During any project, or investigation we will consider, on an ongoing basis, whether the issue deserves the continued commitment of resources when weighed against competing issues.