The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPR) were warmly welcomed by sceptics in the health care field, as it reversed the burden of proof hitherto enshrined in the old Trades Descriptions Act. However so far I and others have been less than impressed by the vigour with which it is being enforced. I submitted a complaint nearly two years ago about Skinny Water, claimed to help you to lose weight, and the authorities have refused to apply the CPR and insist on handling the complaint under food legislation. One Trading Standards officer said he was sending the product to the public analyst, totally misunderstanding that the complaint had nothing to do with whether the ingredients list was accurate. The latest view is that Skinny Water makes medical claims, so it is a medicine and should be regulated by the MHRA. This seems to be a good way to avoid the issue as the MHRA has no resources to enforce anything other than the most extreme violations. Then in September last year I complained about Pure-U, a company selling magnets for rheumatic pain etc. Complaints now have to be routed through Consumer Direct, or should I say Consumer Indirect, as it took five months for that one to reach the Trading Standards office for the company concerned, in Worcester. Are they using pack horses for this? No they can’t be, dumb animals would have been faster.
But the other week there was a ray of hope. I got a call from the excellent Jan Green at Wiltshire Trading Standards (my home territory). She told me that my complaint against Vivian Kay (who trades as Simply Healing), a quack practitioner who was in my view violating the Cancer Act 1939, had been followed up by West Sussex Trading Standards. The claims are I am told being removed. All this inside a month – fantastic.
But Jan did say that they get very very few such complaints. I started this blog with the intention of providing a tool kit for those who wish to be active in supporting good science in health care. Well there are not many people taking up the offer. It isn’t difficult, but it does require tenacity. Jan did say that to get results you have to “make a nuisance of yourself”. We are clearly kindred spirits! The sad fact however is that I seem to be the only person in Wiltshire who makes any such complaints.
So here is what you do. Just go to the Consumer Direct site and type in your complaint. Upload any evidence you might have, especially photographs. Keep a copy. I have a simple tracking table that I update whenever anything happens – essential or I will forget what I have done. Chase up Consumer Direct to find out which Trading Standards (TS) office they have sent it to. Then chase the TS office. I had to write a hard copy letter to one of mine, as they didn’t publish any other contact details – but I got an email reply the same day it was received. Mind you they have still done nothing, but I now have the email address. Once you have contact with the TS office, chase them every fortnight until they are sick of hearing from you. Don’t be put off – this is your right as a UK and EU citizen (the CPR is backed by an EU directive).
I am shortly to start a formal trial of CPR enforcement, for which I need more volunteers. Let me know if you are interested.