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Talking Trading Standards – with Leon Livermore, former head of CTSI

I talk with former CEO of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). Leon Livermore, in a series of  interviews. In the first one we discuss his work at CTSI.

Leon in his kitchen

What is the CTSI?

Leon Livermore was the CEO of the CTSI, for almost 8 years until March 2021. The CTSI works with the Government, UK and EU Parliamentary institutions, businesses, consumer organisations and other regulatory bodies to maintain and improve customer protection. It is also responsible for reinforcing fair markets and supporting businesses in their legal duties, competitiveness and success.

Businesses need to be aware of/members of the CTSI as it helps them understand their legal obligations and enhances their reputation, profile and performance.

I’ve met him a few times at various events and sort of got on! I say “sort of” because over the years I’ve co-written two research reports on Alternative Dispute Resolution. (ADR) [1]. Both of these were highly critical of the CTSI and CAA, in particular, for their approval and monitoring of ADR schemes.

So I thought it would be interesting to have a chat about his time at CTSI and challenge him on ADR too!

When The Complaining Cow chatted with the former CTSI CEO Leon Livermore

 

The forum meeting Leon refers to in that clip was replicated:

How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -

 

Pride and enjoyment

But we started with the easy stuff! I asked Leon what achievement he was most proud of and what he had enjoyed the most during his time at CTSI. He was most proud of achieving chartered status, having applied for this a number of times, and having to sort out qualifications and other issues. This status placed the profession on the same footing as others and clearly gives CTSI the mandate from the UK Government (it is awarded by HM the Queen through the privy Council) to speak with authority on all matters of Trading Standards and competence.

He enjoyed the work involved with introducing and implementing the CTST-Approved Codes of Practice.

Leon Livermore ex CTSI CEO talks about his proudest achievements

The challenges of regulation and possible solutions – Challenges born of crisis but soon forgotten

When asked what the biggest challenge was, Leon was highly critical of the Government and the current regulatory system. He spoke of Grenfell and of Whirlpool and said how, at the time of the foot and mouth crisis, money was heavily invested in animal health and welfare which was subsequently reduced because people lose that collective memory for past disasters.

“Take 60-70% out of the regulatory network, no-one notices until it goes wrong.”

It doesn’t make sense to have around 220 individual local Trading Standards services now, he says. That model was designed when everyone shopped locally and they obviously don’t now! There is a disconnect, with Government saying that local Trading Standards should undertake the consumer-facing work but localities not having the funding to carry out that work. Recognising that no-one is going to change the structure of Trading Standards, he calls for accountability at the level of Central Government. Grenfell and Whirlpool brought a focus on safety and a Minister was put in place who could be held to account.

Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO talks with The Complaining Cow about challenges of working in CTSI.

Whirlpool drier recall – more spin than real action?

We discussed our joint contempt for how the Whirlpool situation was left to the local Trading Standards department in Peterborough when it was a national problem. I wrote about Whirlpool a lot on my blog, including a report in 2018 which brought together a number of Freedom of Information Requests and statements from relevant bodies. Whirlpool – The tumble dryer story without the spin. Leon spoke about having to sit “with the bad guys” in a meeting with BEIS (Department for Business, Enterprise, Industrial Strategy (I call them BEIGE!) and having to try and justify the decision made by the local authority, when it should never have been left to them. He also spoke of how CTSI “…called for a full recall ahead of Which? and anyone else” and that this was at the same time as Peterborough Trading Standards department was giving different advice to Whirlpool.

Although there was nothing wrong with the advice they gave, which was their job to do, it just “didn’t pass that mum’s testIt didn’t sit right but it is hard for a local regulator that is exposed to so much risk to follow the letter of the law, he said. He argues that this is when the national regulator needs to come in and say what is in the best interests of consumers and provide the quicker more simple solution

In 2018 the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established on the back of the Whirlpool events. Leon praised the set-up of the Food Standards Agency and their work with local authorities and hopes that the OPSS will work in a similar fashion and so if something similar ever happens again then work will be quicker. But he is concerned that faulty and dangerous machines are still being used. He wants a system that protects people more efficiently but that people’s memories are so short!

Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO discusses the Whirlpool events with Helen Dewdney

Next time in the interview series

Look out for the next episode where Leon and I talk ADR! Having had good debates, arguments and differences of opinion over the years, what does he think now? What will we agree on and what did he think went wrong. Most importantly, how could the ADR scene be improved?

Notes

[1] These reports were:

Ombudsman Omnishambles:  Serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ombudsman ADR system in the UK

and

More Ombudsman Omnishambles: The UK ADR landscape 20 months on…

 

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National Consumer Week 2nd November 2015

Knowyournewrightsgraphic1Week beginning 2nd November is National Consumer Week. Citizens Advice, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today launch National Consumer Week and are urging people to get to know their new consumer rights as Christmas shopping gets underway.

Faulty goods, misleading claims and substandard services mean Christmas presents fly back on to the shelves in January, according to new figures from Citizens Advice. Analysis by the charity shows that people are more likely to call its Consumer Service helpline with complaints about items such as toys, computer games and jewellery in January than any other time of year.

The findings reveal that complaints to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service about toys doubled in January 2015 in comparison to the rest of the year, while problems with DVDs, video games, games consoles, and sound systems rose by two thirds.

The top five most complained about personal goods in January 2015 were:

  • Tablets, notebooks and laptops hit the number one spot. Last January saw 850 complaints, one third higher than the rest of the year.

  • Women’s clothing – complaints rose by a fifth

  • Televisions – the helpline saw a third more enquiries.

  • Toys – toys had the biggest increase in complaints, which were more than double than any other time of the year

  • Jewellery –  complaints increased by two fifths

Complaints were most likely to be about defective goods, while one in seven people contacted the service because of misleading claims and descriptions about their purchase. One in twenty complained that businesses didn’t honour their cancellation rights.

Citizens Advice has developed a ‘Know Your Rights’ guide explaining the big changes to consumer law that Christmas shoppers should know.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Buying gifts should be hassle-free but not everyone gets what they pay for. Too often, we hear from people with problem purchases struggling to get the replacement or refund that they deserve. Clearer consumer rights will make it easier for shoppers to know what they are entitled to, so if a Christmas gift isn’t up to scratch, they know how to get their money back. Citizens Advice urges people to do their homework before they hit the shops this Christmas and make sure they know their rights if they have problems with their purchases”.

Consumer Minister Nick Boles said: “Whether downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the new Consumer Rights Act makes it easier for shoppers to understand their rights and simplifies the law for businesses. UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and the “Know your New Rights Campaign” will help them to shop with confidence.”

Leon Livermore, CTSI Chief Executive, said: “Retailers are responsible for training their staff but consumers should spend a few minutes familiarising themselves with the new laws too. Consumers who know their rights shop with confidence, saving time and money, which is good for all concerned. People should consider their rights whenever they make a purchase but they may wish to take extra care at Christmas. Nobody wants to give or receive a defective product but it is important to know how to resolve any issues, should they arise.”

Fraser Sutherland, Consumer spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “By releasing these figures now, we are sending a message to Scotland’s consumers ahead of this year’s Christmas shopping. You have new rights to protect you against scams and shoddy goods. You don’t have to put up with second-rate smoothie-makers or terrible toys. If it doesn’t work or is of poor quality you have a right to have a refund. If you are unsure of your rights, visit our website or talk to your local Citizens Advice.”

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, which provides contacts details for the CEO of any company, said “Knowing your rights is an important part of shopping, whether at Christmas or any other time. We would recommend consumers understand the new law, so that they can take the necessary steps if things go wrong after they’ve bought a product or service. Thank you to CAB for their valuable ‘Know your New Rights’ Campaign.”

Anyone who needs advice on goods and services they have purchased can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06, or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk. More information can be found on this website including the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, redress and Results! which provides advice, guidance, tips, laws and template letters.

A series of videos made for Citizens Advice Bureau for Consumers Week.