What is the Trade Descriptions Act?

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 is a parliamentary Act that protects against manufacturers, retailers and/or service industries from misleading consumers when making a purchase. Trade descriptions are things such as:

  • Signs.
  • Advertisements for products.
  • Brochures for marketing a product.
  • Statements made to a consumer.
  • Labelling of products.

What are The Consequences of Not Complying with the Trade Descriptions Act?

The legislation ratifies penalties of punishment to companies and/or individuals that make false claims regarding what they are selling.

Although this Act remains in force in the UK it is often superseded by the more recent Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CRP’s).

This law helps to protect the consumer against rogue traders and con artists that would otherwise be able to take advantage of them. Although business to business trading does not tend to be covered by these regulations unless it directly affects a consumer.

What is Considered Misleading Under the Trade Descriptions Act??

There are certain things under CRP that are considered to be either misleading or aggressive practice in regards to trading:

  • Providing false information or misleading information. This could be about a product and its benefits or goods and what they are for.
  • Creating confusing with competitors’ products by giving a similar name to another businesses product. Therefore misleading the consumer into thinking it is the same.
  • Harassing, coercing and influencing consumers to make purchases physically or otherwise.
  • Omitting important information in regards to the product of goods.
  • Failing to comply with the code of conduct and ethics to which traders subscribe.

How Does This Help?

The concept of having this legislation is to protect against such unfair practices in trading against unfair or specifically banned trading practices. A prohibition of this unfair practice does two of the following things:

  • Stops a trader from misleading a consumer on what they want or need. Also stopping influencing them to buy your businesses product by changing their decision.
  • Stops breaches of the requirement for traders. Helps them to be professional and meet the standard that is expected, acting in good faith or with honest practice.

What Are Consumers Legal Rights Under The Trade Descriptions Act?

If a consumer that believes they are the victim of unfair trading they are within their rights under the legislation in the UK to make a complaint against a trader.

If a customer complains about something they purchased, the easiest and most common solution is to provide a refund and apologise for the issue.

Usually, this prevents further dispute with the consumer and can be done on a basis called a ‘no fault’ basis. This is where the trader does not admit or deny any fault instead they satisfy the customer.

This is done so there can be no evidence used against the company or trader if legal action becomes a risk.

Once the customer is satisfied the trader should then look into the substance of the complaint made. This is done by reviewing similar or the same products in order to avoid further complaints.

What Happens if a Consumer Pursues Legal Action?

If the customer does pursue or threaten legal action legal advice should be sought by the trader. Traders and businesses should have a customer complaint policy in place. This should contain one stage of complaint resolution as well as giving an option of referral to a regulatory body or trading standards service if a customer is dissatisfied.

This helps efficient and effective handling of any complaints by a consumer. It also demonstrates to regulatory bodies and services that a trader or business is committed to providing high-quality service and compliance with fair trading standards as outline by legislation.

If a business is considered to be engaging in unfair trading and is in breach of the regulations they can face prosecution of up to 2 years in prison or an unlimited fine.

More often the local trading standard services would use informal procedures to deal with such a breach.