Meeting and exceeding consumer protection laws to drive competitive advantage
A DSG international case study

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Page 4: Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and Customer Protection Act 1987

Trade Descriptions Act 1968

DSGi imageThe Act makes it a criminal offence to apply a false trade description to goods. The Act covers descriptions given both verbally and in writing. It covers any factual statement about the physical qualities of the product, e.g. size, capacity, performance, place of manufacture and previous history. For DSGi it is vitally important to ensure that it has a procedure in place, in a fast changing market, to ensure that new products are accurately described when they are put on sale.

DSGi produces around 5,000 advertisements a year, some of which may contain descriptions for hundreds of products. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that all staff involved in production of this material have been properly trained and understand the importance of ensuring that the customer gets accurate and up-to-date information.

Criminal laws such as the Trade Descriptions Act are enforced by Trading Standards officers. They work for local government and have powers to visit stores to check on prices and descriptions. In the event of serious problems, they can prosecute a company through the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. Magistrates can impose a fine of £5,000 for each offence and in the Crown Court the fine is unlimited with the possibility of imprisonment for individuals who are found guilty of an offence.

DSGi recognises the critical role of Trading Standards departments in ensuring that standards are maintained. It works closely with its Home Authority, Hertfordshire Trading Standards. It has recently developed a programme called "Building Bridges". This encourages a dialogue between individual store managers and Trading Standards officers to develop a better understanding and better relations at local level. It is designed to improve DSGi's compliance, the handling of Trading Standards complaints, but most important of all, the customer experience.

Consumer Protection Act 1987

The Consumer Protection Act governs both the pricing of products and product safety. The way in which prices are presented to customers is controlled by a very detailed code of practice. This covers most forms of promotional marketing. There are rules which deal for example with how sale prices can be claimed, introductory offers, recommended prices and free offers.

Product safety is of fundamental importance. A dangerous product, particularly an electrical product, can kill. DSGi recognises this and has its own UKAS approved laboratory to check the safety of a product before it puts it on sale. DSGi also has a buying operation in the Far East and people who visit factories to ensure they have systems in place so that all products are produced to a high quality and to the required safety standards.

DSG international | Meeting and exceeding consumer protection laws to drive competitive advantage