Why is this important?
Reporting a problem to Trading Standards
This page tells you what to do if you need to report a problem to Trading Standards, including:
- who to contact
- what information you need to give
- what happens after you’ve reported the problem
- what you can do if Trading Standards can’t help you.
Trading Standards services differ across the country. If you want to report something to them, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
The helpline will provide you with advice on your rights and pass details of your complaint on to Trading Standards where appropriate. Trading Standards may then contact you directly if they are able to offer you help or if they need further information from you.
Even if Trading Standards do not contact you directly about your case, they use the information they receive from the helpline to make sure that businesses are behaving fairly and not breaking the law.
Who to contact first
Trading Standards services differ across the country. Citizens Advice has an agreement with Trading Standards to help you report a problem to them. To report a problem to Trading Standards, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service.
Experienced advisers will assess your problem and work out whether to pass it on to Trading Standards. However, they won’t be able to make a decision about whether Trading Standards will take on your case.
If the problem is passed on it is called a referral. When Trading Standards have received the referral, they decide whether they are able to help you and may contact you directly.
Some local Trading Standards offices do offer a drop-in service for the public. You can check whether there is one in your area by contacting your local authority or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
If you live in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
If you live in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, you can contact your local Trading Standards office directly.
What information do you need to report a problem
Before you contact Citizens Advice, gather as much information as you can to support your problem. This will help the adviser decide if your problem can be passed on to Trading Standards.
Try to give details of:
- what the problem is
- what you know about the trader
- paperwork, including bills, invoices, quotes and estimates or contracts
- notes of any conversations you've already had with the trader, including dates
- witnesses who can confirm what you're saying
- photos or video evidence of the problem.
What happens if Trading Standards take on your problem?
If Trading Standards take on your case, it’s important to know what may happen next.
The information you give Trading Standards may be passed on to other bodies with the power to take action against the trader. For example:
- the Office of Fair Trading
- the police
- the courts service.
If there is a prosecution, you may be asked to give evidence against the trader in court.
However, not all cases end up in court. Trading Standards doesn’t have to prosecute a trader even when it's clear that a criminal offence has been committed and the trader is likely to be convicted. They can choose to take no action or to give the trader a warning.
If a trader is found guilty, the court has the power to award compensation of up to £5,000 in cases where money has been lost. However, even if a trader is successfully prosecuted, you may not get your money back as the court doesn’t have to do this, particularly if the trader can’t afford to pay.
If you are awarded compensation, it can’t be any more than the value of the goods or services that you’ve lost. You usually can’t claim for distress or additional losses that are hard to put a value on.
What to do if Trading Standards can’t help you
Sometimes Trading Standards won't be able to help you personally and you may have to take other action to solve your problem. You could:
- complain directly to the trader
- contact a trade association if the trader is a member
- use alternative dispute resolution, for example the Ombudsman
- take the trader to court.
Your Citizens Advice adviser will be able to tell you what else you can do to solve your problem.
Even if they don’t take your case on, Trading Standards may still collect evidence about the trader and may decide to take action at a later date.
To report a problem to Trading Standards, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service: