Mystics Face Checks in Blitz on Swindlers
Byline: BETH HALE
THE biggest overhaul in consumer protection laws for 40 years came intoforce yesterday to protect the public from rogue traders.
From now on all businesses - from fairground fortune tellers to doubleglazingsalesmen - are under a legal duty not to trade unfairly.
The regulations ban the use of misleading statements, fake credentials andaggressive sales practices.
For example, door-to-door salesmen will have to be careful not to be toopersistent.
If they continue in their pitch after a customer says no they could becommitting an offence and be at risk of up to two years in prison.
And astrologers, mediums and fortunetellers will no longer be able to claimtheir services are 'experimentally proven'.
If they make any claim at all, they will have to say their services are for'entertainment only'.
The Consumer Protection Regulations ban 31 types of unfair sales practicesoutright and tighten controls on all traders.
Among the tactics that are now illegal are bogus closing-down sales and limitedtime offers that tempt the consumer to spend but are later extended.
Also banned are false testimonials, often found on websites, from 'customers'giving favourable reviews of products, holidays or shows. The rules will beenforced by the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Stanactions dards. Offencescould be dealt with under civil or criminal law. Under criminal law that meansfines of up to [pounds sterling]5,000 and jail terms of up to two years.
Last night, Steve Playle, a spokesman for the Trading Standards Institute,said: 'The new rules will clearly define some examples of bad trading practicethat have been a bit of a grey area.
'If a trader comes round cold calling, selling double glazing or burglaralarms, and someone says they are not interested and asks the trader to leaveand he doesn't he is committing a criminal offence.
'That will help us a lot because coldcalling crime is on the up particularlywith elderly and vulnerable people.' Another common practice to be banned is'bait and switch'.
The tactic, often employed by electrical retailers, sees a lowprice productadvertised when it is not available.
When the customer asks about the offer he or she is directed to a higher priceproduct instead. …