Unfair trading

Unfair trading includes a trader making misleading statements, leaving out important information about a product or behaving aggressively. Businesses that operate aggressively or use misleading marketing are breaking the law.

About unfair trading

By law, businesses have a general duty to trade fairly.

A trader is likely to be breaking the law and trading unfairly if:

  • they make misleading statements, such as falsely telling you that your boiler needs replaced when it doesn't
  • they leave out important information about a product, for example they don't tell you the second hand car you're buying has been written off by an insurance company
  • they behave aggressively, for example a  doorstep trader pressures you to pay in cash for home repairs immediately
  • they insist on bringing you to the bank to withdraw money - this could amount to coercion or undue influence

The law against unfair trading bans 31 activities, which include:

  • making false claims about endorsement or authorisation, for example falsely claiming to belong to a trade association
  • visiting your home and refusing to leave until you sign a contract
  • telling you that if you don’t buy, the trader's job or livelihood will be in jeopardy

How to complain about unfair trading

If you believe that you have been misled you should contact Consumerline. They will refer the matter to the Trading Standards Service if it is possible that the law has been broken.

Trading Standards inspectors can investigate complaints about traders and businesses which trade unfairly in Northern Ireland.

If the regulations have been breached, Trading Standards Service can take any of the enforcement action below against a trader or business:

  • written advice
  • written warning
  • formal caution
  • prosecution

If the matter goes to court and a trader is convicted, the court may issue a fine of up to £5,000. In the most serious cases, a prison sentence of up to two years may be imposed.


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