Unscrupulous TT traders targeted by Office of Fair Trading
With this year’s TT festival predicted to be the biggest for a number of years in terms of numbers of visitors, the Office of Fair Trading is warning unscrupulous traders not to try to take advantage of the situation by conducting business unfairly or illegally to the detriment of consumers and legitimate businesses.
The Office has identified a number of key areas of business activity and Trading Standards enforcement officers will be closely monitoring both local traders and any non-resident traders to ensure that consumers and legitimate businesses are adequately protected.
The key areas identified are:-
- Prices: Checks will be carried out to ensure that prices are displayed in accordance with the law and that price indications, including special offers, are not misleading. Particular, but not exclusive, attention will be paid to public houses, temporary bars, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, mobile food premises, petrol stations, non-resident traders, accommodation and special events.
- Age-Restricted Sales: Businesses will need to be even more vigilant to prevent illegal sales of age-restricted products such as cigarettes and alcohol to young people who are under-age. Shops will hopefully be much busier than usual and consequently staff may be put under more pressure by youngsters trying to profit from the situation by purchasing age-restricted products. Also, youngsters may try to persuade misguided visitors to buy cigarettes or alcohol for them. Under-age drinking has posed problems in previous years and both Trading Standards and the Police will take instances of illegal sales of age-restricted products very seriously. Shops and licensed premises will be visited prior to and during the festival to remind businesses of the added responsibilities that go along with selling age-restricted products and to offer appropriate advice. Whilst passports and driving licences are acceptable forms of proof of age, only the Isle of Man Government 18+ Proof of Age Card clearly indicates that holders are 18 or over and avoids staff having to calculate customers’ ages from their dates of birth. Both Trading Standards and the Police actively promote the 18+ Proof of Age Card as being the best means of proof of age in terms of preventing illegal sales of age-restricted products.
- Counterfeiting: In recent years both local traders and non-resident traders have been caught selling counterfeit merchandise, mainly clothing, e.g. leather jackets, t-shirts, neck warmers and baseball caps, but also sunglasses, stickers and other merchandise related to the festival. Enforcement officers can and will seize and detain counterfeit merchandise and traders caught breaking the law are liable to hefty fines and/or imprisonment.
- Licensed Premises: Visits will be undertaken to licensed premises, including restaurants and temporary bars, to prevent and detect instances of spirit substitution (switching well known labels for cheaper ones), short measures and illegal sales of age-restricted products.
- Safety of Consumer Goods: Checks will be carried out to ensure that consumer goods, in particular those related to motorcycles, e.g. helmets and visors, are safe. Unsafe goods may be seized and detained with the possibility of criminal proceedings ensuing.
- Unlicensed Non-Resident Traders: Positive enforcement action will be taken against any non-resident trader caught selling goods without the requisite licence issued by the Office.
- Special Events: The Office will continue to work closely with other enforcement agencies, e.g. the Police, Customs & Excise, Work Permits and Income Tax, to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not try to take advantage of the numerous special events taking place around the Island to try to avoid detection.
- Shoppers’ Rights: The Office has produced and will be distributing a leaflet in English, German, French and Italian advising visitors of their basic rights as consumers in the Island and offering very basic advice on issues such as the price of accommodation and price displays in eateries.
Legitimate businesses trying something new or different, e.g. special promotions, during the festival should not hesitate to contact the Office for advice on the law.
Quintin Gill MHK, Chairman of the OFT said: “TT fortnight is a key time for local traders. The Office of Fair Trading wants to make sure that it protects local business and all consumers, irrespective of where they are from. We will be making sure that the Island’s fair trading legislation is being followed and will be working with other agencies to try to help make the centenary TT a successful event for everyone. I would ask traders to take note of the fact that we are making simple and clear advice on consumer rights available to our visitors in four languages. We have placed an example of the English text on our website so that traders will know exactly what we are advising consumers to do.”