Misleading claims by businesses
During the past twelve months the Office of Fair Trading has issued eight warning letters to traders falsely claiming membership of trade or professional organisations in their advertising and two traders were issued with formal cautions for the same offence.
Falsely claiming membership of a trade or a professional organisation is a false trade description. Any trader found guilty of an offence could incur a substantial fine and/or face a term of imprisonment.
Although only a minority, some local traders are prepared to make false claims about their qualifications and competencies to gain an edge over their competitors. The Office is determined to create a level playing field for local traders who trade fairly and will take appropriate enforcement action against traders who make such claims in the local media, in telephone directories or on their vehicles.
Consumers are advised to check out any claims made by traders before they employ them. This can easily be done by phoning the organisations concerned or by visiting their websites. Just because a trader advertises in the local papers, in the local telephone directory or on the side of a locally registered van does not necessarily mean that any claims made by the trader concerned are not false.
The Office has produced a leaflet on “Checking professional qualifications, logos and claims of approval” which can be obtained by calling in at the Office in Lord Street, Douglas or telephoning 686500. The leaflet can also be obtained from the Office website www.gov.im/oft. The leaflet contains a list of the main professions who are regulated or registered by Government organisations or trade bodies and provides contact details for consumers to check out a trader's claims.
Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading Bill Henderson MHK said “It is unacceptable for businesses to mislead their customers in this way. The Office will not tolerate this type of behaviour. We are working hard to catch out those who try to cheat consumers and other traders and will have no hesitation in prosecuting where it is necessary. If any members of the public have any concerns about claims made by traders they should make sure that they check them out before employing them.”
The traders who received warning letters were falsely claiming membership of the Federation of Master Builders, the Guild of Master Craftsmen, the General Osteopathic Council, the Institute of Plumbing, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the British Board of Agrément and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering. The two formal cautions were issued to traders falsely claiming membership of CORGI (now called GAS SAFE) and the NICEIC, which are trade organisations for gas installers and electrical contractors respectively.