The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) symposium is the main gathering of consumer protection professionals throughout the UK, and I attended this for the tenth time in July.
Up until last year, the annual event was known as ‘trading standards conference’ and for the first time in the event’s history, it has moved away from a conference format to a symposium format. What this means is that the event is now much more focused around educating members so that they can gather more CPPD (Continued Professional and Personal Development) hours. These hours all add up towards the hours required for Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner Status.
The venue for this year was the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, and for the first time, delegates could stay at the same venue as the conference, which as well as being practical meant that you could have those all too important corridor conversations, easily catching up with your network in an informal setting. When I first went as a delegate from Greenwich council back in 2008, it seemed that every Local Authority sent their entire trading standards departments, but in recent years the number of front-line trading standards officers feels like it has dropped. This is reflected in the consumer protection landscape where due to the substantial cuts to the number of trading standards officers (56% between 2009 – 2016 according to the National Audit Office). I have personally noticed more members from outside Local Authorities in attendance, as there are now various private sector consumer protection mechanisms such as approved codes of practice and certification bodies.
The symposium (must remember not to call it a conference) is a chance for the trading standards and consumer protection profession to raise issues or launch key reports. This year, Leon Livermore the CTSI Chief Executive launched the ‘Value of Trading Standards’ report which showcases innovative, new ways of working from the trading standards profession. The easy to read report shows the sheer diversity of the work of trading standards and highlights areas of work such as doorstep crime, unfair postal charges and investment fraud.
Although I was only there for one day out of three I wanted to make the most of the conference sessions and use the time in between them to catch up with ex-colleagues and make new contacts.
In the morning I attended a CTSI Lead Officer breakfast where, over bacon rolls, CTSI updated our network of trading standards experts on the latest policy developments. This was centred around BREXIT and the think tank which CTSI had established. Over the years we have acquired consumer protection in the form of European level legislation, such as the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, and it would be a shame to lose all these excellent protections.
I was particularly interested in talking to the British Standards Institution (BSI) following on from their session on how BSI help trading standards. Earlier this year the newly formed Office for Product Safety and Standards launched a PAS (Publicly Available Specification) on product recalls and I was really impressed with how all the major players came together to produce the PAS, to give guidance and leadership over an issue that has been in the press and the subject of many campaigns. We are now doing further work with the BSI and we have applied to be on the BSI Consumer and Public Interest network.
HIES is a strong supporter of the trading standards profession and values our link with our Primary Authority. We are always happy to support trading standards officers and other regulators by providing witness statements and expert knowledge.