It is important that traders are fully aware of the Trade Description Act and the regulations included within the Act. All traders within the UK are responsible for ensuring that they follow the regulations that are set out; they have a legal obligation to do so. Consumers are in the position to report any traders that they feel have broken the Act, although in the first instance they should approach the trader to discuss the breach. It is a legal obligation of the trader to ensure that they resolve any claims that are placed against them. Failure to do this will result in the local Trading Standards body investigating and possibly taking action. There are numerous penalties in place to ensure that traders do not breach the Act.
Whilst in the first instance Trading Standards Officials from local authorities will deal with breaches of the Act, the police are also involved in the process. In serious cases the police may be part of the prosecution of traders. Repeat offenders are likely to be placed in front of the Crown Court to establish a punishment. In cases of small offenders or breaches the matter may be settled at magistrates courts. National companies that have breached the Act will be trialled at Crown Court and are likely to face both prosecution and a hefty fine.
Each case is different and therefore it is impossible to list the exact penalty that a trader will be faced. Much of the prosecution is based on the amount of evidence and therefore this will have an impact upon the sentence or fine that is given. In order for a penalty to be imposed there must have been a clear breach of the Act. Small insufficient breaches that are not intentional will not lead to prosecution.
Failure to comply with the Trade Description Act is a criminal offence and therefore those who breach it will be trialled through the British justice system.
At a magistrates court the maximum fine that can be imposed upon anybody found guilty of breaching the Act is £5,000. This was previously set at £400 when the Act was first introduced.
The Crown Court will deal with more serious cases and this could see a trader being sentenced to imprisonment. The maximum prosecution sentence that can be imposed by a judge for somebody breaching the Act is two years imprisonment. The maximum fine that be given by a Judge at the Crown Court to those found to be breaching the Trade Description act is unlimited. Those who are found to be breaking the Act on a large scale can therefore expect a major fine. It is possible for a Judge to sentence a trader to imprisonment and require them to pay a fine which has been imposed upon them.
In cases where it is applicable traders may have their Consumer Credit Licence removed by a Judge; this will stop any further operations within certain markets.