Disclosure of hidden referral fees should be made mandatory

Customers must be told about third party referral fees when buying or selling a home. This is one of a number of changes proposed by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team to improve transparency in property sales and ensure consumers feel confident in the services they receive.

The proposed changes follow a review into the practice of referral fees and their impact on buyers and sellers in the UK property market carried out by National Trading Standards at the request of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Under the changes estate agents who continue to flout the legal requirements concerning referral fees could be banned from the industry.

Referrals are commonplace in the estate agency industry. In a recent survey of TPO (The Property Ombudsman) members, almost 60% of members had referred customers to external companies*. More than 80% of those members admitted receiving a fee for the referral*.

The review by National Trading Standards noted that the practice of referring customers to a preferred service provider in exchange for a fee is regularly concealed. Many customers remain unaware of the existence of referral fees when buying or selling a home. In some situations, customers may be pressurised to use a referred provider despite the fact it does not meet the needs of the customer or provide best value. As part of the proposed changes around referral fee disclosure, customers should be advised to shop around to find a third-party provider who offers the best value and service.

The recommendations include:

· Proposals for government to make transparency of referral fees mandatory and require a warning to be given to customers that they should consider shopping around
· A public awareness programme to warn consumers about hidden referral fees
· Further industry guidance, and work with the professional bodies and redress schemes to encourage compliance in the property sector.

James Munro, Senior Manager, National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team, said:

“We recognise that referral fees have a place in business if used ethically and transparently and with no pressure to use the referred service. It is important that customers are fully aware of the basis and value of a referral or recommendation so they are able to take an informed transactional decision. Mandatory disclosure of referral fees would ensure there is full transparency around this practice, helping to build consumer confidence in the estate agency industry and demonstrating the duty of care agents should have to both parties in a property sale.”

Minister for Housing Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said:

“This government is committed to making it easier, cheaper and clearer for people to own their own home, including by making the buying and selling process more transparent.

“It is unacceptable that unscrupulous practices are still taking place where consumers are not being made aware of referral fees when buying or selling a property.”

“I welcome the National Trading Standards’ work to raise consumer awareness of referral fees and will carefully consider the recommendations of their report. I have asked National Trading Standards to continue to monitor the situation to help inform if further steps need to be taken.”

To deliver the recommendations and to support estate agents to disclose referral fees, National Trading Standards is developing further industry guidance and will work with professional bodies and redress schemes to encourage compliance in the property sector. The public awareness campaign will highlight the issues and inform consumers, who will also be encouraged to report experiences of non-disclosure to their local Trading Standards Service:

In England & Wales via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline by calling 0808 223 1133 or online via https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

In Scotland via Advice Scotland on 0808 800 9060 or online at https://www.advice.scot/

In Northern Ireland via Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or online at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/contact-consumerline-make-complaint-or-ask-advice

A full copy of the report and recommendations can be found on The National Trading Standards website here.

Rise in telephone scams predicted as lockdown eases

As COVID-19 lockdown measures start to ease, National Trading Standards is predicting a rise in scam telephone calls as illegitimate call centres around the world get back to work.

To coincide with the expected surge in telephone scams, National Trading Standards is offering 700 free call blockers on a first-come-first-served basis for households looking to prevent nuisance calls.

The call blocker devices make a considerable difference to households targeted by scam and nuisance phone calls. A recent survey, which examined the impact of call blockers provided by National Trading Standards three months after installation, found that 92% of users no longer received scam or nuisance calls and 95% of users no longer felt threatened or scared by these types of calls. By using a call blocker to prevent scam and nuisance calls from reaching users in the first place, 88% of respondents felt safer in their home and 83% of people no longer worried about losing money from a scam call.

COVID-19 has provided new opportunities for telephone scammers to take advantage of members of the public. One company was found to have made over 680,000 automated scam calls over a four-week period, urging people to purchase face masks and hand sanitiser at a cost of £29.99-£49.99 by falsely claiming that the PPE was a government requirement. National Trading Standards took action to prevent further calls being made, saving consumers more than £6million.

The call blocker units supplied are the trueCall Secure call blockers – the same devices that have been used in previous National Trading Standards pilot programmes. trueCall’s latest data from its call blockers predict a sharp rise in nuisance calls as lockdown lifts. Despite telephone scams that were made during lockdown, overall the number of nuisance calls in March was 34% below expected levels and 77% below expected levels for April. However these figures are now picking up as call centres across the world re-open.

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“Scam callers are relentless and often leave their intended victims feeling scared, anxious and unsafe in their own homes. Our pilot call blocker schemes have already shown the effectiveness of call blockers in protecting households from potential scams and the distress that these types of calls can cause. This technology can make a real difference to the quality of life and emotional wellbeing of people who are targeted by nuisance or scam calls.”

Members of the public who feel threatened by scam and nuisance calls can apply for a free call blocker from National Trading Standards here: www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/callblocker. To minimise the need for technicians to enter people’s homes, devices available through this pilot will need to be self-installed.

Media and Data Minister John Whittingdale said:

“We are determined to end the plague of nuisance calls ruining elderly and vulnerable people’s lives. It’s fantastic to see Trading Standards help block unwanted calls as lockdown lifts.

“By providing 700 call blockers free of charge we can continue to drive down nuisance calls and reduce the emotional distress they cause.”

In a recent study about the effectiveness of call blockers, carried out in partnership with the National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work at Bournemouth University, consumers who have received a call blocker reported a significant increase in their well-being after the blocker had been installed and stopped the scam and nuisance calls. One recipient said the call blocker has had an “enormous effect…prior to the call blocker I was getting calls on a regular basis. I lost my husband and this had really helped me feel safer.” Another added: “It’s brilliant as my husband doesn’t answer scam calls anymore and he used to reply to scammers and we lost money to scams. It has all stopped now.”

Professor Keith Brown, Director, National Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice at Bournemouth University, said:

“We know that criminals are very skilled and clever in the way they use persuasive language in order to win over the confidence of their victims. It can be very difficult at times to know which calls are scams and which are from genuine people so call blockers play a vital role in protecting the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly recommend them.”

Steve Smith, MD of trueCall said:

“As lockdown eases we must all stay vigilant and protect our vulnerable relatives and friends from scams. We’re proud to play our own role in helping protect households from criminals with our call blockers that stop unwelcome callers and ask unrecognised callers to identify themselves before calls are put through.”

Members of the public are also being encouraged to protect themselves, friends and neighbours against scams by joining Friends Against Scams. The initiative provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To date, nearly 500,000 people have signed up to take part in the initiative. To complete the online modules, visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk.

A keyboard

Businesses join forces to combat COVID-19 scams

More than 100 organisations are spearheading a new initiative to combat fraud against businesses as more companies and employees adjust to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their exposure to sophisticated business scams.

NatWest, Places for People and the Co-operative Bank are among the first companies to join Businesses Against Scams, a cross-industry initiative led by National Trading Standards that provides free tools for businesses to upskill and train their workforce to help identify and prevent scams.

Security risks include criminals targeting employees working from home who are isolated from colleagues. Scams include criminals impersonating government officials or a senior member of the business to put pressure on employees to give out sensitive information or make payments.

Remote working also presents new cyber security challenges, with security reliant on the resilience of home Wi-Fi routers and more employees familiarise themselves with new software and devices.

The Businesses Against Scams initiative provides free online training modules, including examples of prominent scams and how to avoid falling victim.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“Scams not only deceive legitimate businesses, they risk undermining the UK’s economic recovery. As more employees work from home, we’re urging businesses to protect themselves, their employees and their customers to help prevent significant financial losses or data protection breaches.”

The types of scams directly targeting businesses include tax refund fraud, which can lead to significant financial losses for businesses. Scams targeting customers also undermine businesses, as criminals often impersonate businesses to defraud their customer base, causing reputational damage and potential loss of business. The emotional and mental impact on employees who have fallen victim to a scam can also be devastating and long-lasting.

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“We’ve launched Businesses Against Scams as a free tool for organisations to help safeguard their business and protect their workforce and customers. More than 100 businesses have already signed up to the free training, which is empowering businesses and employees – who are all adapting to new working environments – to take a stand against scams by equipping them with advice and knowledge on how to identify and prevent a scam.”

The four most common scams to target businesses include:

  • Government grant/tax refund scams – A business is contacted by phone, email or post by government imposters suggesting the business might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant or a tax refund. Variations on the scheme involve contacts through text messages, social media posts and phone messages.Businesses should be cautious about unexpected urgent communications offering financial assistance. Check that the information is genuine by using official government websites.
  • Invoice/mandate scams – A business may be contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be from a regular supplier. They state that their bank account details have changed and will ask you to change the payment details. Never rush a payment. Use contact details that you already hold or that have been obtained independently rather than any included in the request. Do not call the number in the request or reply with your email details as this may be fraudulent.
  • CEO scams – A sophisticated scam that plays on the authority of company directors and senior managers. An employee receives a phone callor email from someone claiming to be a senior member of staff – they ask for an urgent payment to a new account and instil a sense of panic. Scammers may even hack a staff email account or use spoofing software to appear genuine. Be cautious about unexpected urgent requests for payment and always check the request directly if possible..
  • Tech support scams – With more people working remotely and IT systems under pressure, criminals may impersonate well-known companies and offer to repair devices. Criminals are trying to gain computer access or get hold of passwords and login details. Once they have access, criminals can search the hard drive for valuable information.
    Always check that the bank or payment website you’re using is secure – a small padlock beside the web address will confirm you’re using a secure site. Always be suspicious of cold callers. Genuine companies would never call out of the blue and ask for financial information.

Allison Simon, Head of Fraud, Commercial Banking, NatWest Group said:

“During this uncertain period, fraudsters are using the anxiety and stress caused by the crisis to try and target individuals and businesses with seemingly legitimate and convincing requests. It’s more important than ever that our customers are aware and alert to this increased threat, and its why we’re pleased to be a founding member of Businesses Against Scams, in partnership with National Trading Standards.

“We’d encourage all businesses to remember three basic tips to keep themselves safe. Firstly, never rely on just an email to validate payment – contact the sender on a trusted number. Second, NatWest will never telephone you asking you transfer money to a new or safe account. And finally, if you receive a request from a supplier to update bank account details, always call back using a trusted contact number to check it’s genuine.”

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said:

“Scams are despicable at any time, but particularly so if they seek to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As businesses adopt new working practices in response to the outbreak, it is important they stay vigilant against scams.

“I urge business leaders to sign up to the excellent Businesses Against Scams initiative and make use of free training to help protect their employees, customers and businesses from being taken advantage of during this difficult period and beyond.”

If a business believes they have been the victim of a scam they must contact their bank immediately. Please report any suspicious communication to Action Fraud.

Businesses Against Scams is a new part of the successful Friends Against Scams initiative, run by National Trading Standards to provide free online training to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/

Scaling up swab sample testing for COVID-19

At UK Biocentre they have transformed their facility to test swab samples for COVID-19 on an industrial scale.

This would not have been possible without their dedicated staff, 150 volunteer scientists and the support of the British Army, universities and other partners.

Hear more from the people who helped make this possible – click the video below.

COVID-19 Testing Equipment

Milton Keynes laboratory now testing COVID-19 samples 24/7

UK Biocentre analyses samples including the crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

More than 150 scientists from academia and industry have joined staff at UK Biocentre to test tens of thousands of COVID-19 samples every day. UK Biocentre laboratories in Milton Keynes have been transformed to analyse swab samples at industrial scale to support the national effort against the coronavirus pandemic.

Tens of thousands of COVID-19 samples are being sent to UK Biocentre every day from the drive through testing centres, mobile testing units and other sites. Home testing kits are also being sent to the laboratory in Milton Keynes for analysis. All swab samples – which are anonymous – are tested within 24 hours and the outcome of every test is then uploaded electronically and sent to the relevant organisation.

On 28 April a batch of additional samples arrived from HMS Queen Elizabeth – the Royal Navy’s largest ever warship and the future UK flagship – and were analysed overnight enabling the ship to set sail from Portsmouth.

The testing has enabled the aircraft carrier to sail from Portsmouth (29 April) to ensure she is ready to conduct her first operational deployment in 2021. The Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier will undergo several weeks of training and assessment with the staff of Flag Officer Sea Training to ensure the UK can deliver on its commitment to have a Carrier Strike Group ready to deploy from the end of this year. The training will include more qualifying training for UK F35 Lightning fighter jet crews, who will be conducting practice manoeuvres from her decks, giving vital experience to the aircrews and ship’s company involved in air operations.

Dr Tony Cox, UK Biocentre CEO, said:
“It is an honour for us to support the national testing effort by analysing samples from NHS staff, other frontline workers and their families – and this week on behalf of the Royal Navy. As the number of people being tested for COVID-19 increases, we are now analysing tens of thousands of COVID-19 samples each day.”

“Our 24/7 operation would not be possible without the support of universities and other partners who have loaned us equipment and the volunteer scientists who are using their expertise to oversee the liquid handling robots, the RNA extraction, the PCR reagent and other vital elements of our process.”

Thanks to vital support from partners, UK Biocentre has expanded rapidly by installing state-of-the-art robotic equipment and other technology enabling scientists to analyse at industrial scale. Large amounts of equipment needed to provide a fully automated service have been installed. Accuracy remains the number one priority and UK Biocentre continues to be supported by the NHS and PHE to ensure the highest standards of accuracy are achieved at industrial scale.

To meet the growing demand, UK Biocentre’s staff team has been joined by an army of more than 150 volunteer scientists – including molecular scientists, technicians and bioinformaticians – to deliver a high throughput, 24/7 analysis service for as long as is needed.

Dr Daniel Patten, a post-doctoral researcher at University of Birmingham, who is volunteering at UK Biocentre as a laboratory assistant, said:
“As a laboratory scientist, I possessed the right skills that were required to volunteer here – the same skills and techniques that I use every week. Many university labs are closed as a consequence of the lockdown and so it’s fantastic to be in the lab and actively contributing to our understanding of this virus. It’s been genuinely incredible to work on this and a fantastic experience. Normally as a researcher, you’d hope to make a key difference over the long-term in your specialty; however, working at the UK Biocentre we can have an immediate impact and could potentially be saving thousands of lives by supporting this national testing effort.”

UK Biocentre is working closely with colleagues at the other two Lighthouse Labs in Glasgow and Cheshire, and is proud to acknowledge the many private and public organisations who are partnering in this unprecedented effort, including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Tecan and Brooks, as well as Public Health England, NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Coronavirus

Beware of COVID-19 scams

Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. National Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams that seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19.

Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.

Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.

COVID-19 scams identified include:

Doorstep crime

  • Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
  • Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Online scams

  • Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
  • Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.

Refund scams

  • Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Counterfeit goods

  • Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

Telephone scams

  • As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

Donation scams

  • There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Loan sharks

  • Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable that heartless criminals are exploiting members of the public – including some of our most vulnerable citizens – to line their own pockets. I urge everyone to be on their guard for possible COVID-19 scams and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for fraudsters.”

“We’re calling on communities to look out for one another. If you see anything suspicious, report it to Action Fraud or to speak to someone for advice, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”

People are being encouraged to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams, which provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To complete the online modules, visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk.

National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative:

Friends Against Scams campaign infographic Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“As people stay indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, criminals are preying on people in vulnerable situations who are isolated and living alone. There’s never been a more important time for neighbours to look out for each other – particularly as we self-isolate – which is why we’re encouraging communities to prevent scams in their local area by using the free Friends Against Scams resources.

“Our online courses will help you spot a potential scam, identify people at risk and help you protect local residents from falling victims to scams. We’re urging communities to protect each other from scams and encourage people to share the latest advice with families, friends and neighbours.”

Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams and the possible dangers to them. If you or someone you know has been a targeted by a scam you should report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam/.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said:

“We’re warning consumers to be extra vigilant about potential scam ads that appear during the coronavirus crisis. Bogus operators often use these situations to prey on people’s fears and exploit their health-related anxieties, in particular by peddling products with misleading and sometimes dangerous health claims.

“Consumers who see ads, whether online, in newspapers, social media, posters or elsewhere, that claim to offer cures or treatments for coronavirus should be highly sceptical.

“We’re working with a range of partners, including National Trading Standards and Citizens Advice, to tackle rogue businesses and providing consumers with advice to help them avoid falling victim to coronavirus related scams. We encourage anyone who sees these types of claims to pause, think and report it.”

Man using a laptop

Pair jailed for secondary ticketing fraud

Two ‘ticket touts’ from London have been sentenced to a total of six-and-a-half years behind bars following a ground-breaking hearing at Leeds Crown Court today. The sentences follow the first successful prosecution against a company fraudulently reselling tickets on a large scale.

Peter Hunter, aged 51, was sentenced to four years in prison and David Thomas Smith, aged 66, to 30 months behind bars. It follows an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which is hosted by North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council.

Earlier this month (13 February) jurors at Leeds Crown Court found Mr Hunter and Mr Smith guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile music and entertainment events. The pair ran BZZ Limited, a multi-million pound limited company through which they purchased and resold hundreds of tickets at inflated prices for events and concerts such as Ed Sheeran, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the play), Madness, McBusted and many other mainstream acts.

The judge found that Mr Hunter and Mr Smith committed their offences between May 2010 and December 2017. The court heard today that the pair made a net profit of £3.5 million in the last 32 months of the fraud. There were thousands of people who were denied the opportunity to purchase tickets at face value, as well as those who were sold invalid and overpriced tickets. Despite multiple warnings to desist and measures imposed to prevent fraudulent purchases, the offences were only brought to an end following the intervention by National Trading Standards.

The full sentences are as follows:

  1. Count 1: Fraudulent trading – namely by knowingly enabling BZZ Limited to purchase event tickets for resale and/or fraudulently reducing the number of event tickets available for consumers to purchase at face value (Mr Hunter sentenced to four years, Mr Smith to 30 months)
  2. Count 2: Possession or control of an article for use in fraud – including the use of bots and debit/credit card payments held in the names of people other than BZZ Limited (Mr Hunter sentenced to 12 months, Mr Smith to 12 months – to be served concurrently with Count 1)
  3. Count 3: Fraudulent trading – based on continuing the business of BZZ Limited for a fraudulent purpose between 19 May 2010 and 13 December 2017, namely by offering for resale tickets which were at risk of being refused entry and/or falsely representing that said event tickets offered for resale were valid (Mr Hunter sentenced to two years and Mr Smith sentenced to two years – to be served concurrently)
  4. Count 4: Fraudulent trading – by listing and offering event tickets on secondary ticket websites that they did not own, and/or falsely representing that BZZ Limited did own the said event tickets (Mr Hunter sentenced to 18 months, Mr Smith to 18 months – to be served concurrently)

The investigation by National Trading Standards found that the defendants used several dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS. This meant that BZZ Limited was dishonestly and fraudulently competing with consumers to purchase tickets from the websites of primary sellers while, at the same time, listing those tickets for sale to consumers at inflated prices.

Furthermore, the company’s tactics circumvented the platforms’ terms and conditions and their automated systems to block multiple purchases. This saw them purchase more than 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017. Despite knowing that their purchases had contravened the primary sellers’ terms and conditions – making tickets liable to be cancelled – the defendants knowingly continued to resell hundreds of tickets to consumers at inflated prices.

To evade the platforms’ systems, the defendants:

  • Acquired, created and maintained a network of identities that were used to commit the fraud.
  • Used a number of different people to buy tickets, causing a significant number of other persons to become involved in the fraudulent behaviour, thus rendering those persons .liable to arrest and prosecution for those offences or fraud or aiding and abetting fraud.
  • Used checklists such as the AXS list to avoid using the same identity too many times.
  • Acquired specialist software including bots; Insomniac Browser; Omni Checker and Roboform to facilitate the greater efficiency of fraudulent behaviour.
  • Studied the systems of Primary Sellers to overcome measures intended to prevent the fraudulent behaviour (for example: taking steps to circumvent captchas or the detection of IP addresses).
  • Further lied to maintain the false impression created by the use of multiple names and identities to purchase tickets (for example: pretending to be individual cardholders / consumers when contacting primary sellers).

The pair also engaged in fraudulent trading by listing tickets for sale on secondary ticketing websites that they had not purchased and did not own. Known as ‘spec selling’, the idea was to induce consumers to agree to ‘buy’ non-existent tickets at an inflated price. Once sales had been secured, the defendants would try to source the tickets to fulfil the purchase. Consumers were therefore tricked into paying an inflated price and also exposed to the risk that BZZ Limited would be unable or unwilling to supply the ticket.

Through their activities, Mr Hunter and Mr Smith involved a number of other people in their fraud, making them liable to arrest and prosecution. This includes those who allowed their credit and debit cards, names, addresses and other details to be used to misrepresent the identity and nature of the purchaser.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets. Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences. I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.

“I would like to congratulate our teams who have worked tirelessly on this investigation and would urge anyone who suspects that a sale may be fraudulent to report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service by calling 0808 223 1133.”

The investigation was led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which has prepared a checklist for consumers looking to buy tickets online.

BUYING TICKETS ONLINE – YOUR CHECKLIST Buy tickets from authorised sources – buy your tickets or check ticket availability with an official agent or reputable ticket supplier. If in doubt, check the website of the festival or event for more information on their official vendor

  • Avoid secondary ticket sellers – you should always avoid buying from secondary ticket sellers or tickets on social media: if you buy tickets through unofficial sources you may be refused entry.
  • Research online ticket sellers
    • Research the seller/company thoroughly online
    • Check your seller is an authorised ticket seller on the STAR website (run by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers)
    • If it is a company, check how long they have been registered at Companies House (the longer the better – if they recently registered it could be a scam)
    • Check the seller or company online for unfavourable reviews on Site Jabber, Trust Pilot or Feefo and beware of false positive reviews, a favourite tactic of scammers
    • Check ticketing forums for unfavourable feedback and again beware of false positive reviews
  • If you have accidentally purchased a ticket via a secondary ticketing website, check that the following key information is available:
    • the seat number, standing area or location of the ticket
    • information on who the seller is
    • any connections the seller may have with the platform or event organisers
  • Pay by credit card – when purchasing tickets online you should:
    • Use a credit card, which gives you added protection if you need to get your money back
    • Never pay by direct money transfer
    • Only pay via encrypted payment facilities (look for the padlock in the address bar)
  • Never post pictures of tickets online – if you are in possession of genuine sports, festival or concert tickets don’t post pictures of them online: they could be copied and details could be used to get into the event before you, making your tickets unusable
  • Report it – if you are concerned that a sale may be fraudulent we urge you to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member with responsibility for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said:

“I applaud our expert investigators for unveiling and successfully prosecuting a major e-crime to protect consumers from being misled and defrauded.

“This sentence will ensure the directors of BZZ Entertainment face the consequences of their extensive and appalling actions.

“Anyone who suspects they may have fallen victim to similar websites should contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.”

North Yorkshire County Councillor Andrew Lee, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said:

“It is good to see unscrupulous touts jailed for abusing consumers and manipulating the ticketing market. It also makes me proud that officers of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team from both North Yorkshire County Council and York City Council helped deliver this landmark result.”

The investigation was initiated following research from the National Trading Standards Intelligence Team. The team is hosted by Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards Team. A spokesperson said:

“The team researched the problem of secondary ticket sales, and produced individual profiles on the two defendants. They collected intelligence when raids were undertaken and worked closely with the eCrime Team and the Competition and Marketing Authority.

“It was a particularly detailed case, made all the more interesting by being based in Suffolk, with the Ed Sheeran link. We were aware of stories in the local media, concerning people wanting to see Ed’s concerts and encountered problems when buying ‘resale’ tickets through third party sellers, such as those in this case.

“We’re pleased with this prosecution and sentencing, and hope it deters people who might consider this kind of fraudulent trading in the future.”

Ticket on a windowsill

Landmark prosecution for secondary ticketing fraud

Two ‘ticket touts’ from London have been found guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile music and entertainment events. The landmark case at Leeds Crown Court marks the first successful prosecution against a company fraudulently reselling tickets on a large scale. It follows an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which is hosted by North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council.

Peter Hunter, aged 51, and David Thomas Smith, aged 66, ran BZZ Limited, a multi-million pound limited company through which they purchased and resold hundreds of tickets at inflated prices for events and concerts such as Ed Sheeran, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the play), Madness, McBusted and many other mainstream acts. The pair will be sentenced on 24 February 2020.

The pair were found guilty on four counts:

  • Fraudulent trading – namely by knowingly enabling BZZ Limited to purchase event tickets for resale and/or fraudulently reducing the number of event tickets available for consumers to purchase at face value
  • Possession or control of an article for use in fraud – including the use of bots and debit/credit card payments held in the names of people other than BZZ Limited
  • Fraudulent trading – based on continuing the business of BZZ Limited for a fraudulent purpose between 19 May 2010 and 13 December 2017, namely by offering for resale tickets which were at risk of being refused entry and/or falsely representing that said event tickets offered for resale were valid
  • Fraudulent trading – by listing and offering event tickets on secondary ticket websites that they did not own, and/or falsely representing that BZZ Limited did own the said event tickets.

The investigation by National Trading Standards found that the defendants used several dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS. This meant that BZZ Limited was dishonestly and fraudulently competing with consumers to purchase tickets from the websites of primary sellers while, at the same time, listing those tickets for sale to consumers at inflated prices.

Furthermore, the company’s tactics circumvented the platforms’ terms and conditions and their automated systems to block multiple purchases. This saw them purchase more than 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017. Despite knowing that their purchases had contravened the primary sellers’ terms and conditions – making tickets liable to be cancelled – the defendants knowingly continued to resell hundreds of tickets to consumers at inflated prices.

To evade the platforms’ systems, the defendants:

  • Used a number of different people to buy tickets
  • Applied other people’s personal details to purchase tickets
  • Deployed at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade platform restrictions. These identities were enhanced through the use of bots, which are designed to support the automated bulk-buying of tickets. Emails to the 290+ email addresses were all auto-forwarded to one email address held by BZZ Limited
  • Used different IP addresses and concealed their IP address – their internet identity – to disguise bulk buying.

The defendants also engaged in fraudulent trading by listing tickets for sale on secondary ticketing websites that they had not purchased and did not own. Known as ‘spec selling’, the idea was to induce consumers to agree to ‘buy’ non-existent tickets at an inflated price. Once sales had been secured, the defendants would try to source the tickets to fulfil the purchase.Consumers were therefore tricked into paying an inflated price and also exposed to the risk that BZZ Limited would be unable or unwilling to supply the ticket.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“Millions of people spend their hard-earned money on tickets such as music concerts and sporting events each year. Buying a ticket in good faith and then discovering it is part of a dishonest fraud can be deeply distressing and can have a considerable financial impact on consumers.

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and should reassure consumers that the fraudulent practices of secondary ticket sellers will no longer be tolerated. I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

The investigation was led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which has prepared a checklist for consumers looking to buy tickets online.

Claire des Pallieres hands out posters to local businesses announcing the launch of LondonÕs first Low Plastic Zone (LPZ)

First ‘Low Plastic Zone’ launches in London as businesses respond to demand

In response to consumer demand for less pointless plastic, North London Waste Authority (NLWA) in partnership with the seven north London boroughs, is launching the first ever ‘Low Plastic Zone’, with over three quarters of businesses in the Cowcross Street area of Islington having successfully, and permanently, reduced the single-use plastic they give to their customers, with many pledging to go further than the Charter of Commitment. 

Claire des Pallieres hands out posters to local businesses announcing the launch of LondonÕs first Low Plastic Zone (LPZ)

Over the coming weeks, key shopping areas within Haringey, Camden, Barnet, Enfield, Hackney and Waltham Forest are also expected to reach Low Plastic Zone status.  

 The Low Plastic Zone initiative aims to encourage and support local businesses of all sizes to reduce the amount of singleuse plastic handed to customers who, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by NLWA, simply don’t want it anymore. 95% of respondents want local businesses to reduce their use of singleuse plastic, and 83% have taken steps to reduce their own use.  

 Shoppers are voting with their feet and choosing businesses that are taking action. 17% have stopped buying a product because it wasn’t available without plastic packaging, 15% have switched from one local business to another and 11% have travelled out of their way to use a lower-plastic firm. In fact, if two businesses were identical in every other way, 93% of respondents said they would shop at the one that had reduced single-use plastic.  

Lady placing NLWA "Low Plastic Zone" posters in her window 

Chair of North London Waste Authority, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “Our research shows that the majority of people are trying hard to reduce their use of single-use plastic but are frustrated at how difficult it is to avoid when shopping or eating and drinking on-the-go. Reducing the amount of waste we all create, and single-use plastics in particular, is essential for helping tackle the climate emergency. North London Waste Authority is committed to helping residents and businesses do this.  

“We know that businesses want to reduce their environmental impact, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business. People are telling us that they are more likely to use companies who are taking action in this area so we are confident that this flagship initiative will be a win-win-win; for businesses, for consumers and of course, for the planet.”  

Yeohan kim holds a sign announcing the launch of London's first Low Plastic Zone (LPZ).

Speaking at today’s Low Plastic Zone launch at the Lazybones restaurant in Cowcross Street, Cllr Rowena Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport from Islington council, said: The Low Plastic Zone on Cowcross Street is an innovative, practical step towards cutting down on single-use plastics and shows one of the many ways we are working with local people and businesses to tackle the climate emergency. We have been encouraged and inspired by the response from the public and businesses alike so far; it is clear many people who live and work in the borough are willing to do their bit in helping reduce single-use plastics. We look forward to more businesses in the area and beyond signing up.” 

The growing public awareness of the harmful effect of plastic on the environment has left many feeling worried about the future (38%), frustrated (34%), sad (26%) or powerless (22%) when seeing the volume of singleuse plastic on display in shops and restaurants. Six per cent of respondents even reported experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety.   

Such is the strength of feeling that people are shunning plastic even if it’s to their own detriment; 15% have eaten a takeaway meal with fingers rather than accept plastic cutlery, 13% have gone thirsty because they didn’t want to buy a plastic water bottle and one in 10 have refused to buy their child or grandchild a toy, magazine or snack because of the plastic content. 

"Low Plastic Zone" Campaign NLWA

Fuelled by flagship TV documentaries and the ongoing public debate, some shoppers are now confronting businesses directly. Nine per cent of respondents have spoken to shopkeepers about the amount of packaging on display and eight per cent have commented on businesses’ social media pages. A plucky eight per cent have even unwrapped items at the till to make a point to shop staff.  

Top 5 single use plastic items people found it hardest to reduce or eliminate – and tips to help:  

  • Thin film packaging: Usually used to wrap fruit, veg and meat. Increasingly shops are removing these so buy loose when you can and bring your own reusable food wrap, such as beeswax wraps, or net bags to pop loose fruit and veg into. 
  • Punnets or trays: These are usually the base for fruit, veg or meat. Many supermarkets will now allow you to bring your own reusable containers – just make sure you weigh loose items before you put them in the box. If you can’t bring your own, try and avoid black or dark plastic trays – as often found in ready meals – these are usually not recyclable. 
  • Water bottles: Most people now own one of these – the trick is to remember to take it out with you. Try leaving it near your front door or handbag as a reminder. 
  • Carrier bags: As with water bottles, it’s a case of remembering to take them with you. Try leaving a set in your car boot or near the front door so they can’t be forgotten.  
  • Food on-the-go: Increasing numbers of cafes and takeaways are allowing customers to bring their own containers. You could also consider buying a set of bamboo or small metal cutlery for use on-the-go. And if you’re ordering from home, refuse the plastic knife and fork! 

 To find out more about the campaign or if you’re a business that would like to get involved visit www.wiseuptowaste.org.uk/businesses/low-plastic-zones 

Join the Swish and Style clothes swap revolution

2020 is set to be the year of the clothes swap – aka ‘Swish’ – as awareness of the environmental impact of fashion continues to rise and people strive to cut down on waste. More than 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year and according to a report by the waste charity WRAP, if clothes stayed in active use for three years (nine months more than the UK average), it would reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints by 20 to 30 per cent. Which is why the North London Waste Authority’s Wise Up to Waste campaign is encouraging people to swap unwanted clothes for something to cherish at a series of Swish and Style giant clothes swaps across north and central London in 2020.

Launching officially on 8 January at Dragon Hall in Covent Gardenthe January event provides the perfect opportunity to put New Year Resolutions to waste less into practice and Swish any unloved Christmas fashion gifts.

Chair of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), Councillor Clyde Loakes, said: “Our research shows you’re likely to have at least six items in your wardrobe that you haven’t worn for a year. We’re asking people to dig them out and swap them for something they will wear. More mindful fashion consumption enables people to save money and will help tackle the climate emergency”.

What’s more clothes swapping is good for your mental wellbeing, as Fashion Psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell explains: “Consumers agree that the sustainable fashion movement is “an ideal situation they would be striving to work toward”. However, often there are barriers to being sustainable. Firstly, sustainable fashion collections can be expensive, which of course can negatively impact our wellbeing. Secondly, fast-fashion items are based on fast-changing trends and wearing clothes ‘of the moment’ plays a key role in how we want to be perceived. Clothes swapping events like Swish & Style remove these two issues completely. Not only will this event allow you to revamp your wardrobe without the financial strain, but the free repair and alteration workshops  will provide an opportunity to make any ‘not quite right’ finds into match perfect gems – so you’ll  appear more confident in your attire.

 But the benefits don’t stop there, according to Forbes-Bell: “In the UK, more than 30% of our unwanted clothing currently goes to landfill. Therefore, by swapping instead of dumping your clothes, you’ll be lightening your environmental footprint while experiencing psychological benefits. Neurological studies have shown that the reward networks in the brain activate during acts of generous giving, even when we benefit from these acts ourselves. Also, clothes swapping enables you to engage in more mindful consumption, so rather than letting your style be dictated by big-label brands and high-street giants, you’ll be able to make a conscious decision about what styles truly suit you, your values and your lifestyle.

“So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to Swish and Style!”

Fashion Editor and Stylist Wendy Rigg who will be at the launch event on 8 January to offer event-goers styling advice and help them pick out fabulous outfits they will want to wear again and again, agrees: “With vintage being so on-trend, there couldn’t be a better time to start swishing. Clothes swaps provide the fun of fashion shopping without the guilt or waste. As we step into 2020 why not give it a go”.

Fast Fashion Therapy will also be at the launch event offering free upcycling and repair tips.

Admission: Free – you can register here.

More information: wiseuptowaste.org.uk/swish

How it works: Bring good quality clothes and accessories you no longer want, swap them for tokens and then spend those tokens on items you love.  You can also take part in an upcycling workshop on repair and alterations and/or you can show your support for the campaign online by posting pictures of your #wardrobetreasure finds.

Items accepted: 

  • Clean and wearable women’s and men’s clothes 
  • Clean and undamaged shoes and accessories like hats, scarves and gloves

 

Please don’t bring the following: 

  • Damaged clothes, with holes or stains 
  • Jewellery 
  • Underwear, bath towels, bedding (unless unworn/unused in original sealed packaging)
  • Swimwear
  • Stockings, tights and leggings

 

Swish and Style event schedule: 

Date Time Address Workshop
8 January 6.30-9.30pm Dragon Hall, Covent Garden Dragon Hall Trust, 17 Stukeley Street, London WC2B 5LT Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling

11 January 3-6pm Round Chapel Schoolrooms, 1D Glenarm Rd, Clapton, London E5 0LY Amber Joy

– Natural Dyeing

18 January 2-5pm St Mary Magdalene, Windmill Hill, Enfield, EN2 7AJ [TBA]

– Upcycling with Embroidery

23 January 6.30-9.30pm Salisbury Hotel, 1 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, London N4 1JX [TBA]

– Leather Upcycling and Repair

2 February 2-5pm St Mary’s Community Partnership, Upper St, The Angel, London N1 2TX Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

6 February 6.30-9.30pm Today Bread/Central Parade Co-working, 6-10 Central Parade, 137 Hoe Street, Walthamstow E17 4RT Anna Alcock

– Screen Printing

15 Feb 1-4pm Artsdepot, 5 Nether St, North Finchley, London N12 0GA Amber Joy

– Natural  Dyeing

22 Feb 2-5pm St Mary Magdalene, Windmill Hill, Enfield EN2 7AJ Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

29 Feb 1-4pm Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

5 March 6.30-9.30pm Salisbury Hotel, 1, Grand Parade, Green Lanes, London N4 1JX Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

14 March 1-4pm Abney Hall, 73A Stoke Newington Church St, Stoke Newington, London N16 0AS Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

21 March 1-4pm Lift, 45 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PW Moody Bright Designs

– Upcycling with Embroidery

28 March 2-5pm St. John’s Hall, High Road, Leytonstone, London, E11 1HH Fast Fashion Therapy

– Upcycling, Basic Mending and Boro

Rise in modern slavery in fraud and scams

Organised crime groups are playing an increased role in doorstep crime and other scams, according to the annual Consumer Harm Report published today by National Trading Standards.

These gangs frequently target vulnerable young men from deprived areas – such as those with alcohol and drug dependencies, people who are unemployed, homeless people and immigrants – to carry out substandard house ‘improvements’ and unnecessary repairs on people’s properties. Victims of the scams are often in vulnerable situations themselves – doorstep criminals tend to target residents living alone, with an illness or a disability.

The most recent estimates from the National Crime Agency have identified at least 181,000 people involved in serious and organised crime in the UK – more than twice the strength of the regular British Army. Recent high-profile cases have illustrated the dangerous approaches sometimes taken by criminal gangs to smuggle immigrant workers into the country. The numbers are thought to be growing, while referrals of potential victims of modern slavery increased by 36% in 2018 compared with the year before – a rise of more than 80% since 2016.

Meanwhile, financial losses from fraud soared by 32% between April and September 2018, and the use of modern slavery is increasingly being seen by trading standards officers investigating crimes against householders and consumers. Shoddy and sometimes dangerously unsafe maintenance and improvement work is carried out by enslaved labourers while unsuspecting householders are bullied into paying hugely inflated prices, often losing their life savings in the process.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards said:

“National Trading Standards investigators work every day with limited resources to protect consumers from criminals, including fraudsters, counterfeiters and gang-leaders. The doorstep scammer is not a lovable rogue. Often behind the person who turns up at your door offering cut-price services is a serious criminal. Not only are they happy to rip off older people, those living on their own, and indeed anyone who is taken in by their patter, but they may also be exploiting and even enslaving vulnerable people to help them carry out their crimes. 

“Consumers need to be vigilant to old scams wrapped in 21st century packaging and to ruthless criminals who will stop at nothing in pursuit of ill-gotten riches. The international nature of organised crime means trading standards officers must work closely with domestic and international partners to disrupt these operations.  

“Most importantly, we urge communities to be vigilant and report any suspected scams to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.”

The National Crime Agency leads on serious and organised crime within the UK, but more cross cutting issues are straying into the Trading Standards world.

Adam Thompson, head of the NCA’s Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking Unit, said:

“The types of labour exploitation referenced in this report are often hidden in plain sight, and we need the public to recognise the signs and report their suspicions.

“Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, and have few or no personal effects. They may appear to be under the control or influence of others, rarely being allowed to travel on their own. This includes transport to and from the workplace, where they may work long hours with inadequate personal protection equipment.

“I would also appeal to people to think about the consumer choices they are making to ensure they don’t inadvertently contribute to the problem. If the cost of a particular service seems unusually low, they need to ask themselves why that might be and look beyond the price.

“We welcome the fact that Trading Standards are helping to draw attention to this issue, and recognise the part they can play in helping law enforcement combat modern slavery.”

If you suspect someone to be a victim of Modern Slavery, contact the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, or your local police on 101. Your information could save a life. To remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org. In an emergency always call 999.

Neil Wain, who runs frontline anti-trafficking operations at charity Hope for Justice and was formerly Assistant Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police, said:

“We fully support this important campaign and are pleased to see more and more businesses and members of the public educating themselves about modern slavery and what they can do to stop it.

“Hope for Justice investigators and outreach workers have helped many victims who were being exploited by those responsible for doorstep crime. Many were forced to do construction and maintenance work, paving and gardening – all for little or no pay, while living in squalid conditions and trying to survive in an atmosphere of constant threats, intimidation and abuse.

“Every time an individual or organisation learns to ‘spot the signs’ of modern slavery and knows how to report it, it takes a little more power away from the traffickers who use human beings for profit in the most awful ways. We are glad to see the crime of modern slavery rising up the political and media agenda, and its inclusion in the 2019 Consumer Harm Report.”

Other doorstep crime trends include a rise in utility and energy-related fraud. Fraudsters tend to chase emerging consumer trends, such as increasing consumer awareness of the benefits of green energy and home insulation. Scams relating to solar energy and insulation are attractive to rogue traders, who use doorstep and cold calling tactics to target potential customers. In selling inferior, unsuitable or ineffective installations to unsuspecting householders, they leave consumers out of pocket and threaten the success of legitimate businesses and those who work for them.

The rise in these scams – alongside a recognition that utility staff can help identify and prevent scams given they regularly enter customers’ homes for works – has led utility companies, in conjunction with National Trading Standards, to launch a new initiative as part of the Friends Against Scams campaign. Launching today (27 November), ‘Utilities Against Scams’ brings together communications, gas, electricity and water companies who are training staff to help identify scams and victims of potential fraud.

Jo Giles, customer safeguarding manager at gas network Cadent, who has led the formation of Utilities Against Scams, said:

“Scams are becoming more commonplace, more sophisticated and harder to spot – and the report today clearly shows that our sector, and our customers, are a target. As utility companies, we meet and talk to customers on a daily basis. This puts us in an ideal position to support people who may be targeted, to spot tell-tale signs and act on them.

“Utilities Against Scams creates a clear and consistent approach in how we do this. We have seven main utility organisations who have contributed to this important piece of work and expect many more to join us at the launch – taking a stand both for our industry and on behalf of our customers.”

National Trading Standards (NTS) prevented more than £130 million of losses to consumers and business during 2018/19, while securing convictions to 47 criminals with prison sentences totalling almost 65 years. NTS teams are currently investigating another 97 cases of serious consumer and business detriment.

Investigations are often complex, involving disrupting mass marketing mail scams, shutting down online fraud and disrupting doorstep criminals. Equally importantly, NTS focuses on equipping consumers with awareness and advice to avoid scams and, where crimes have occurred, securing compensation and the return of money which has been obtained illegally.

Other emerging threats identified by the report include:

  • Health and Diet Supplement Scams – these often involve unproven or untested products sold via overseas-based call centres
  • Connected devices and the ‘Internet of Things’ – increasing numbers of household consumer devices – including smart speakers, connected TVs to internet-connected ovens and other home appliances – connect to the internet by default, increasing the risk of devices being exploited to cause consumer harm.
  • ‘Copycat’ adverts on social media – the popularity of social media sites as selling platforms allows counterfeiters to increase their reach when selling unsafe, counterfeit or stolen goods by targeting time-poor consumers with lookalike adverts in their feeds
  • Misleading search engine adverts – an issue in previous years, but we’re seeing a rising trend of misleading adverts to appear at the top of search engine results which encourage users to call them for services like technical support and IT issues. With more searches being made by smartphone, users act on these adds immediately and call through to fraudulent phone lines.

 

69 million items of unloved furniture languishing in UK homes

From unwanted gifts to dated hand-me downs, Britons are sitting on 69 million items of unloved furniture, according to new research released today by North London Waste Authority (NLWA). 

‘Furniture fatigue’  the hating of furniture in perfectly good condition  was exposed in a nationwide survey ahead of the fourth annual London Upcycling Show this Saturday, which found that 62% of Brits own items of furniture they actively dislikeLoathed furniture languishes in lounges, bedrooms and tucked-away corners for a range of reasons. One in five feel too guilty to let go of a gift or preloved hand-me-down and 30% hang onto pieces as they think they might use for something else one day. In a sign that people are concerned about the climate emergency, the most common reason for hanging on to hated furniture is feeling wasteful throwing away an item that still works (39%)38% are unable to afford replacing an unwanted piece and 29% simply never get around to getting rid of certain items.

With two thirds believing at least one item of furniture in their home could be upcycled and made more attractive, useful or modern, NLWA is urging Brits to help combat their ‘furniture fatigue’ by having a go at upcycling. While 72% say they have either tried upcycling or would be keen to learn, there are some common barriers putting people off sanding, painting and gluing – 27% think they are not creative enough, a quarter don’t feel they have the right skills and others are worried about having the right equipment, space or time.  

To help Brits gain upcycling confidence and refine their skills, NLWA has developed the following resources (available on the website):

  • Inspiration: Follow the journeys of three amateur upcyclers as they turn unappealing objects into desirable pieces and compete to win this year’s London Upcycling Show competition.  
  • Hints and tips: Three step-by-step mini-guides with tips on upcycling an armchair, chest of drawers or cabinet, as seen in the videos.  

 Tommy Walsh, TV presenter, DIY and building expert and judge at this year’s Upcycling Show said: “Furniture fatigue can really get you down – when you’re looking at a piece day after day and just not feeling the love, but not really knowing what to do about it. Upcycling is a fantastic way to breathe new life into a plain – or plain ugly – piece of furniture and it’s much easier than people think. For relatively little effort or cost you can create a beautiful piece that’s totally unique to your home.”

Managing Director of NLWA, Martin Capstick said: “While holding onto frightful furniture is good from an environmental perspective as it means people aren’t dumping items, it’s not necessarily good for our wellbeing at home. Rather than replacing unloved items with cheap furniture that’s unlikely to last, we’d encourage people instead to consider upcycling. It’s the perfect solution as it saves waste from landfill, helping us to tackle the climate emergency, and it can make us feel good about what we already have. That’s why I’m so excited about our fourth annual London Upcycling Show – it’s a chance for people to learn how easy, inexpensive and fun it can be to turn ordinary objects into extraordinary ones.”  

Visit wiseuptowaste.org.uk/londonupcyclingshow for more information. For videos of the Upcycling Show visit NLWA’s YouTube channel.