What is a Trading Standards Officer?
A Trading Standards Officer advises and enforces laws governing the purchase, sale, rental, and hiring of goods and services. This ensures fair trade and protects both consumers and businesses.
While Trading Standards Officers perform a variety of functions, they are required by law to:
- Enforce ethical trading
- Fight illegal trading
- Review product safety
- Address the issue of underage sales
- Check weights and measurements
Areas of work for Trading Standards Officers vary but may include:
- Weights and measures
- Commercial fraud
- Animal welfare
- Product labelling
- Underage selling
- Consumer safety
- Credit and loans
As a Trading Standards Officer, you will be involved in the prevention, detection, and prosecution of crimes, as well as liaising with agencies such as the police, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Citizens Advice, trade organisations, and legal professionals.
Some of the responsibilities that you may have as a Trading Standards Officer include:
- Visiting local traders and businesses for routine checks or to investigate complaints
- Ensuring correct labelling and misleading advertising
- Collecting samples of goods for testing
- Confirming that weighing scales and measures, such as beer and spirit measures in pubs and clubs, are accurate
- Finding unsafe electrical goods and toys
- Advising consumers and businesses on the law
- Investigating suspected offences through undercover or surveillance work
- Preparing evidence and appearing in court in prosecution cases
- Giving presentations
- Writing reports
- Keeping records
The salary for Trading Standards Officers is primarily influenced by experience, sector and location.
The UK national average salary for a Trading Standards Officer is £40,088, ranging from £26,000 to £61.000 per year.
The average London based salary for a Trading Standards Officer is £69,394, ranging from £31,000 to £157.000 per year.
As a Trading Standards Officer, you will typically work 37 hours per week. This may occasionally include working unsocial hours to visit places like nightclubs and weekend markets. Flexi-time systems are frequently used.
Part-time and job-sharing opportunities are frequently available. Career breaks are possible, especially in larger local governments, but you must keep up with changing legislation.
As a Trading Standards Officer, you’ll work in an office but will likely spend a lot of time travelling around the area, visiting traders, and attending court. You may also be required to work some evenings and weekends in order to go to pubs, clubs, shops, or markets. Typically, a full driving licence and access to a car are required.
Trading Standards Officers can conduct a variety of investigations. In some cases, this includes seizing and detaining goods. They do not have arrest powers, but if they suspect a trading standards violation or a criminal offence has been committed, they can request police assistance in arresting the suspect. ‘Mystery shopping’ – the ability to pose as a consumer – is one investigative tool available to Trading Standards Officers.
Trading Standards Officers can show up at your business unannounced, seize goods, records, computers, and mobile phones, conduct on-the-spot interviews, seize personal and company assets, initiate arrests and criminal proceedings, and effectively shut you and your business down. They have several options for action, which include:
- Referrals to other organisations
- Statutory Notices
- Fixed Penalty Notices
- Enterprise Act undertakings/injunctions
- Assessment of licences
- Removal of animals
- Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) proceedings.
The most common way to get started in this field is to pursue a consumer protection degree that has been approved by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).
A consumer protection degree usually requires at least five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths, and science, as well as two A levels. Other qualifications and relevant work experience may be accepted, so check with universities about entry requirements.
Some local governments may pay for your consumer protection degree. This means that you will gain work experience while studying, which may lead to a job after you graduate.
After completing the consumer protection course, you must work as a trainee Trading Standards Officer while studying for the TSI’s Diploma in Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards (DCATS).
Typically, you’ll begin as a trainee, combining study with paid work to complete a variety of professional qualifications offered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). There are three levels of training available:
- TSPC (Trading Standards Practitioner Certificate)
- Trading Standards Advanced Practitioner (TSAP)
- Trading Standards Practitioner Diploma (TSPD)
Your training level will be determined by your existing qualifications and experience, as well as the needs of your employer.
More information and a list of approved course providers can be found on the Trading Standards Institute’s website.
As an alternative to pursuing a consumer protection degree, you could apply for work as a consumer adviser or trainee enforcement officer with a local government. You could then study for professional qualifications while working your way up to Trading Standards Officer.
This line of work appeals to career changers seeking a move into trading standards.
In some cases, such as if you work with children or vulnerable adults, you must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service check (England and Wales) or an equivalent check in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Must have skills:
In order to become a Trading Standards Officer, some of the skills that you will need to posses or acquire include:
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds
- Competence in using IT and dealing with statistics for record keeping tact
- The ability to plan and manage projects the ability to work both as part of a team and independently
- The understanding of the implications of regulation on businesses when enforcing the law.
- Competent analytical and investigative skills and keen observation determination and resilience, especially when dealing with hostile traders attention to detail when investigating potential issues
- Diplomacy when dealing with investigations
- The ability to work well under pressure and to remain calm in stressful situations
Prior experience in related fields such as law, retail, or advice work is advantageous. You’ll be dealing with the general public on a regular basis, so any experience that demonstrates your people skills will be beneficial.
Local governments may provide work experience and opportunities within their trading standards teams. This will give you a valuable insight into the work you’ll be doing and the skills you’ll need for the job. For more information, please contact the respective councils.
Once qualified, you’ll need to stay current on industry changes, and you’re encouraged to participate in the CTSI Continuous Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) scheme.
In order to obtain work experience, you will need to attend relevant conferences, trainings, and seminars and read industry publications such as the Journal of Trading Standards. Work shadowing is another great way to gain the necessary experience
You will gain experience as a Trading Standards Officer (TSO) after completing your training. With time and experience, you may be able to advance to a senior TSO position in charge of a team of officers. Typical responsibilities will include ensuring that they work in accordance with applicable legislation and regulations, as well as supervising the investigation of complaints.
If you work for a large local authority, there may be opportunities to specialise in a specific area of trading standards work, such as weights and measures. More senior positions are available, such as section head or team leader, divisional officer or manager, or chief or principal TSO. It may be necessary to relocate in order to advance in rank and responsibility.
Moving into a general management position in a larger local government department can also be a step up in one’s career. You may want to move into the private sector, where there are opportunities in retail and manufacturing, as well as advising on consumer law and quality control.
It may be possible to become a consultant with the right combination of knowledge, qualifications, and experience, whether you run your own business or advise large corporations. As an experienced TSO, you may be able to find contract work through specialised employment agencies.
CTSI members who have the necessary qualifications and experience can apply for chartered trading standards practitioner (CTSP) status.
As a Trading Standards Officer, with time and experience, you could advance to the position of senior TSO or manager. You could also work as a private consultant.
Apart from the above-mentioned degree in law, these are some other degrees that can be helpful when considering a career in Trading Standards:
This is a full-time programme offered at the University of the West of Scotland’s London Campus, which is located in the heart of the United Kingdom’s economic core. Students interested in a career in Trading Standards will benefit from the one-year program, which will prepare them for work in government as well as commercial organisations. This course integrates social science and communication.
The University of the West of Scotland teaches this program at their London Campus, so you’ll be studying at the heart of the UK’s political centre. This one-year, full-time curriculum is for students who have no prior expertise with computers or information technology. The course will help you learn much-needed IT expertise to help you prepare for a job as a Trading Standards Officer.