Leading business crime solicitor who defends traders accused of applying misleading prices and advertising
Jim Meyer is a criminal lawyer who specialises in defending businesses and their owners being investigated by local authority Trading Standards Services (“TSS”) in relation to unfair commercial practices banned by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This includes allegations of:
“Bait advertising”, i.e:
Offering goods that don’t exist;
Offering just a few items at an advertised price with no hope of meeting large demand;
Making misleading comparisons;
Promoting one product with the intention of selling something else (“bait and switch”);
Falsely stating that a product will only be available for a very limited time, or that it will only be available on particular terms for a very limited time, in order to elicit an immediate decision and deprive consumers of sufficient opportunity or time to make an informed choice;
Describing a product as free or without charge if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the offer and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.
Assembling the right legal team to advise and actively defend you will be one of the most important actions that you take.
Jim Meyer will do all that he can to ensure the best possible outcome.
Both corporate entities and private individuals can be prosecuted; directors, managers, secretaries or officers of companies (or any person purporting to act as such) can also be personally liable if they are found to have caused a company to offend by their “consent or connivance” or “neglect”. Of course, if a business is convicted it faces the prospect of reputational damage and a potentially ruinous unlimited financial penalty; individuals who are found guilty risk a “directors’ disqualification” but worse than that they can be imprisoned for up to 2 years. You also need to be aware that TSS can (and does) opt for prosecutions under mainstream criminal legislation, most notably the Fraud Act 2006, and calling upon Jim’s 29 years' of criminal litigation experience can make all the difference to the outcome:
There are statutory defences that can be deployed;
There are time limits that the prosecuting authority needs to observe.
The bottom line is that you need to manage the risk of TSS scrutiny by engaging expert legal advice; even if it is simply to limit the damage of an adverse finding, there are things that can be done.
Contact a specialist defence solicitor as soon as you become aware of an investigation by Trading Standards Services
Trading Standards Services has wide-ranging powers, now consolidated under schedule 5, part 1 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which include:
The power to require the production of information;
The power to require the production of documents;
The power to purchase products (“test purchases”);
The power to observe the carrying on a of business;
The power of entry without warrant;
The power of entry with a warrant;
The right to require assistance from persons on premises;
The power to inspect products;
The power to test equipment;
The power to seize and detain goods;
The power to seize documentation required as evidence;
The power to switch off or decommission fixed installations;
The power to break open containers.
If you are on the receiving end of such a power, it is essential you take immediate legal advice. Jim has a detailed knowledge of the procedures TSS is required to follow and if you are facing an enforcement action or prosecution he can provide expert advice at every stage. This includes:
Attending an interview under caution;
Providing written statements;
Representing you at Court;
Protecting the future of your business following an investigation or prosecution by the regulator.
Whilst prosecution is generally reserved for those cases where there has been persistent and serious flouting of the law, this is not always the case. Involving Jim at an early stage will allow him to positively influence what will happen.
A local authority had not acted ultra vires when conducting a trading standards investigation into energy brokers suspected of involvement in mis-selling. It had power to do so under the Localism Act 2011 s.1 and/or the Local Government Act 1972 s.101 and s.111. It did not have to satisfy the expediency test in s.222(1) of the 1972 Act since that test only applied to decisions to prosecute or appear in legal proceedings, and did not encompass investigations or court applications for investigatory purposes.
Two warrants issued under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 reg.21 following an application by a local authority's trading standards department were quashed as the warrants had not complied with reg.22.
QBD (Admin) (Ouseley J)
8 October 2013
It was not appropriate to quash a local authority's decision to prosecute a company in respect of unauthorised advertising where the borough solicitor had granted a general authority to prosecute to another solicitor, leaving her to decide which specific offences to charge.
A warrant authorising the search and entry of premises by a local authority's trading standards officers and the seizure of business documentation and various items was valid and lawfully executed under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 reg.24.
A sentence of 21 months' imprisonment imposed following a guilty plea to fraud was upheld where the offender, who had a very poor criminal record, had taken advantage of a vulnerable single mother by fraudulently advertising a property for rent and thereby obtained a cheque by way of deposit as well as access to her personal identification documents and financial information.
In considering the statutory defence in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.141A(4), the Crown Court had applied the wrong test in asking itself whether the defendant had been negligent and whether its state of mind was reprehensible.
It was impermissible on an appeal by way of case stated for reference to be made to such further material outside the record provided by the case stated. Parties to an appeal by way of case stated were given the opportunity to make representations on the draft of the case stated.
A street extended to the face of a building so that in every practical sense the outer face of a display window used to amplify sound was in the street, creating an offence of operating a loudspeaker in a street for the purpose of advertising a business.
CA (Crim Div) (Mantell LJ, Butterfield J, Judge David Hodson)
8 March 2004
The appellants had failed to demonstrate that the judge had exercised his discretion incorrectly in refusing to vacate their guilty pleas following the Crown's intention to bring confiscation proceedings against them.
The obligations imposed under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to inform suspects of the availability of legal aid were restricted to persons under arrest in police detention or at a police station. The obligations did not apply to trading standards officers, whose obligations were limited to giving a suspect the opportunity to consult a solicitor.
There was no inconsistency between s.1 Weights and Measures Act 1985 and the European Communities Act 1972 so that challenges to the validity of United Kingdom legislation giving effect to the policy of the European Union to introduce the compulsory system of metric weights and measures were dismissed. * Leave to appeal to the House of Lords refused.
On the facts of this case the respondent, who had sold a magazine with a CD Rom without a classification certificate, was not obliged to carry out independent checks on publications received from a particular supplier and magistrates had been fully justified in concluding that the respondent had established a defence of due diligence under s.14A Video Recordings Act 1984.
An offence could be committed under s.20(1) Consumer Protection Act 1987 without any evidence to prove that an indication by means of a notice applied to specific goods available at a specific price. * Leave to appeal to the House of Lords refused.