23/04/2020 - Permalink

Coronavirus: Trading standards works with regulators to prevent people from being duped in coronavirus crisis

Related topics: Community / Coronavirus / Health / Public protection

Shropshire Council has been working with national regulators to protect residents from unscrupulous traders seeking to profit illegally from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the last month, there is an increasing number of reports being made to trading standards in Shropshire and across the country about scams, bogus cold calling, and fraudulent trading practices where criminals are exploiting health fears associated with COVID-19 and preying on the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

Reports include the supply of fake hand sanitisers, fake coronavirus test kits, products such as scented candles, anti-virus kits and talismans claiming healing benefits, concerns about the source and efficacy of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including face masks and visors, bogus medical products being sold through unauthorised websites claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19, and significant price hikes on essential goods.

An image of seized goods sold by scammers trying to make a profit from the coronavirus pandemic.

An example of seized goods

Shropshire Council’s trading standards service is monitoring the situation daily and will take appropriate action against those found to be in breach of legislation designed to protect you.

Where appropriate, the council is working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to tackle these criminal activities at a local, regional and national level so that we can protect you.

The MHRA has already taken action against nine websites offering fake or unauthorised COVID-19 products. Regional trading standards colleagues have seized a number of fake COVID-19 testing kits at point of import in Coventry and prevented these from entering the UK market.

It is important to stress that, at this time, there are currently no medicines licensed specifically for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, and there are no safety (CE) marked self-testing kits approved for home use.

Buying hand sanitisers, testing kits, medicine/medical devices, and PPE from unregulated or dubious sources, including unrecognised websites and from doorstep callers, poses a significant risk to you. The quality and safety of these products cannot be guaranteed, it is not known what will be supplied and using the products could put your health at risk.

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s trading standards and licensing manager, said:

“At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable, but sadly not surprising, that heartless criminals are exploiting 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, bogus cold calling and other trading activities that may be fraudulent, and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for criminals.”

Trading standards strongly advises you to take the following actions to protect yourselves:

  • Only purchase products from recognised and legitimate retail sources, and when it comes to medicines and medical devices this should be a registered pharmacy
  • Take a moment to think before parting with money, and consider what would be a reasonable price to pay for the product you wish to buy
  • Don’t be rushed into making decisions
  • Don’t assume everyone and every product that is advertised is genuine
  • It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore requests from traders, whether this is someone calling you on the phone, standing on your doorstep or sending you an email.

If you have any concerns about trading practices relating to COVID-19 or any other issue should report these to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

Any matters relating to non-compliance with COVID-19 business closure rules or social distancing concerns taking place in Shropshire, should be reported direct to Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9067 (option3) or advicecompliance@shropshire.gov.uk.

Keep informed and sign up to our daily coronavirus email updates

Shropshire Council wants to keep you as up to date and informed as possible. To help us do this, we have developed a coronavirus update that will be sent daily at 8pm via email to anyone who has signed up to our e-bulletins.

This update includes the day’s key Shropshire Council news, and some key news from our partners, relating to coronavirus-linked issues.  Please click here to sign up for the updates.

Please do encourage your family and friends to sign up to the updates too. This will help us keep everyone up to date with the rapidly-evolving crisis.