Trading standards are losing the internet battle

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The Independent Online

Trading standards officers say they are losing the battle against rogue traders using the internet to rip off online shoppers and businesses.

Trading standards officers say they are losing the battle against rogue traders using the internet to rip off online shoppers and businesses.

A report into the effectiveness of Trading Standards to protect internet consumers has discovered that many officers lack the necessary knowledge of e-commerce to monitor sites. In addition many do not know how to preserve the evidence they find on the internet or how to trace the owner of a website.

Research by Richard Webb, special operations team leader at West Sussex County Council, claims the evolution of the Net and a lack of training by local authorities is making the increasing number of customer complaints harder to investigate. Confusion over how to police the Net has also been caused by the law itself. Tony Northcott, of the Trading Standards Institute, said: "The existing legislation says that it is an offence to display a misleading price on goods, and that the offence occurs at the place where the price is seen. But in the case of a consumer looking to buy something on the internet, the price is seen on the computer in their front room ­ even though the website might be based in a different county or country."

Trading standards officers are holding their annual conference this week.

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