1. This document explains what you can expect from Essex County Council Trading Standards. Whether you are a business, a member of the public or an employee of a local business we are committed to providing you with an efficient, courteous and helpful service and this document tells you how we aim to do that and what standards we will meet.
2. What are we striving to achieve?
2.1. Our priorities are linked to the Essex Organisational Strategy 2017-21:
- Enable inclusive economic growth
- Help people get the best start and age well
- Help create great places to grow up, live and work
- Transform the council to achieve more with less
2.2. In short, Essex County Council Trading Standards seeks to:
- support legitimate Essex business activity, encouraging economic development and prosperity and helping to create a level playing field
- use all of the tools available to swiftly and effectively tackle rogue traders and businesses that cause the most consumer detriment
- protect the economic interests of Essex residents (particularly the more vulnerable members of community) and ensure that they are equipped to make good buying decisions
2.3. We will decide our activities by evaluating local, regional and national priorities and considering the risks that need to be addressed. We will do this by using data and other information available to us and our partners to ensure our resources are targeted appropriately.
2.4. We are intelligence led and use the National Intelligence Model for business planning and tactical tasking. The model enables resources to be targeted in such a way as to achieve a disproportionately greater impact than might otherwise be achieved. The expected outcomes are improved community safety, a reduction in reported crime, and the control of criminality and disorder leading to greater public reassurance and confidence.
2.5. We are committed to being transparent in our activities and achievements and we will publish our performance data annually.
2.6. Our fees and charges are reviewed annually
2.7. We deliver services, regulate or contribute in some way to a number of areas including:
- Animal health and welfare, contingency planning and disease prevention and control
- Business advice and support including a dedicated business advice line, Primary Authority Partnerships, metrology and laboratory services
- Doorstep crime including a rapid response system, No Cold Calling Zones, Buy With Confidence approved trader scheme
- Food safety and healthy eating initiatives
- Feed safety and hygiene
- Petroleum, explosives, massage, poisons and performing animals licensing
- Product safety including electrical goods, toys and cosmetics
- Safety of sports grounds
- Fair trading including credit, pricing, distance selling and scams
- Underage sale of age restricted products
3. Our approach to service delivery
3.1. Our service will be delivered in line with the requirements of the Regulators Code
3.2. We will provide advice and support to enable those we regulate to meet their statutory obligations. This advice will be clear, reliable and relevant to the circumstances (ref 5.1, 5.4, 5.5 and 5.6)
3.3. We will monitor and check compliance with statutory requirement following an intelligence led, risk based approach (ref 3.2)
We will deal proportionately with breaches of the law in line with our Enforcement Policy
, including taking firm enforcement action where appropriate, (ref 3.3)
3.5. We use an intelligence led, risk based approach when responding to requests for assistance that we receive regarding advice, concerns and complaints about breaches of the law (ref 5.1)
4. Our team
4.1. We have a dedicated team of staff who have the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience to deliver the services provided. We have arrangements in place to ensure the on-going professional competency of all staff.
4.2. In your dealings with us you can expect and will receive an efficient and professional response.
4.3. Our team of staff will: (ref 3.8)
- Be courteous, polite and efficient
- Always identify themselves by name in dealings with you
- Carry their identification card at all times and present it to you when requested or when appropriate
- Provide their contact details to you
- Confirm verbal advice in writing when requested or when appropriate to do so
- Provide details of how to discuss any concerns you may have
- Agree timescales, expectations and preferred methods of communication with you
- Ensure that you are kept informed of progress on any outstanding issues
5. How to contact us
5.1. You can contact us by: (ref 2.1)
Telephone: 03454 04 05 06 (Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline for consumer complaints and enquiries)
0345 603 7626 (Dedicated business advice line for Essex based businesses)
Essex County Council Trading Standards
5.2. We will seek to work with you in the most appropriate way to meet your individual needs. We have access to information in different formats and can make use of interpreters if it is appropriate or necessary. (ref 3.4)
5.3. All business line and e-mail enquiries will be acknowledged or responded to within 1 working day of receipt. All referrals from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline are reviewed and where there is a commitment to contact given they will be acknowledged or responded to within 4 working days. An intelligence led, risk based judgement will be made to determine whether a more prompt response is required.
5.4. If you contact us (either as a consumer via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline or as an Essex business via the dedicated business line) you will be asked to provide your name and contact details to enable us to handle your enquiry and keep in touch with you as the matter progresses. We do understand that in some circumstances you may be worried or reluctant to give this information. We treat all contact with the service in confidence unless you have given us permission to share your details with others as part of the matter we are dealing with on your behalf or there is an operational reason why we need to do so. We will respond to anonymous complaints where we judge it appropriate to do so.
6. Working with others
6.1. We work closely with other services within Essex County Council and our aim is to provide a streamlined service to you.
6.2. We are part of a much wider regulatory system in Essex. We have good working relationships with other regulators including all Essex Borough, City and District Councils, Essex Police, Essex County Fire and Rescue and this enables us to deliver a more joined up and consistent service. Our staff are familiar with the work of our partners and can signpost you to the advice and guidance that you need. (ref 5.6)
7. Requests for our service
7.1. When you request a service from us we will:
- Acknowledge or respond to your request within the service standards referred to in section 6.3 above
- Tell you when you can expect a substantive response if we were unable to provide one in the first instance
- Seek to fully understand the nature of your request
- Explain what we may or may not be able to do so that you know what to expect
- Keep you informed of progress throughout our involvement
- Provide clear advice where appropriate
- Inform you of the outcome as appropriate
8. Working with businesses and others we regulate
8.1. We will always seek to support you by providing access to advice that enables you to meet your statutory obligations (in line with our Business Advice and Charging Policy). We will: (ref 5.1, 5.5, 5.6)
- Provide advice that can be relied upon
- Provide advice that is appropriate for your circumstances and is not overly burdensome when balanced against the risks
- Provide clear advice that can be easily understood and implemented
- Seek to minimise any inconsistency by ensuring our partners have access to the advice that we have given you and we will have regard to the advice you have received from others
- Acknowledge good practice and compliance
8.2. Responsible businesses should feel confident to approach Trading Standards, as a regulator, for advice and guidance. If, as a result of your approach to us, a problem with goods or services comes to our attention that must be corrected, we will help you to deal with that problem according to the risk posed. The primary objective of the service is to help business to achieve compliance and economic prosperity. We genuinely believe that the majority of businesses want to comply with the law and we will support them to do this. We reserve the right to take more formal action against those businesses that deliberately break the law. (ref 5.4)
8.3. We may visit you to monitor compliance in a number of different ways including inspections, sampling, test purchases and complaint investigations. These visits will always be based on an assessment of risk. We will give you notice of when we intend to visit unless we have a specific reason to believe that an unannounced visit is more appropriate. (ref 2.2, 3.8)
8.4. When we visit you to monitor compliance, as well as providing you with advice to correct non-compliance, we will:
- Explain the reason for our visit (ref 2.2)
- Seek to gain an understanding of how your business operates and the pressures you face (ref 3.4)
- Have regard to how you approach compliance within your business (ref 3.6)
8.5. Our approach to targeting monitoring of compliance and our checks on individual businesses are explained in greater detail in our published Enforcement policy available here.
8.6. If we require you to take action to remedy any failings we will:
- Respond proportionately to regulatory breaches and take account of risk and your circumstances
- Explain why breaches need to be rectified
- Explain what remedial action is required
- Advise you on the most appropriate course of action taking into account your circumstances
- Agree timescales that are acceptable to both you and us
- Explain how to appeal against the decision/action we have taken (ref 2.4, 2.5)
- Explain the next steps
- Keep in touch with you until the matter is resolved providing you with support and updates
- Have regard to our enforcement policy available here.
9. Having your say (ref 2.5, 5.3)
9.1. We value input from you to help us ensure our service is meeting your needs. We would like to hear from you whether your experience of us has been good or in need of improvement. This helps us to ensure we keep doing the right things and make changes where we need to. We would welcome your feedback at any time. You can provide feedback in the following ways:
Essex County Council Trading Standards
9.2. If we have failed to meet your expectations or the standards set out in this document then you may wish to make a complaint about the service. Essex County Council has a corporate complaints policy. Details can be found here.