Suffolk: Could you be part of the Consumer Champion Network?
AN ARMY of volunteers is being recruited across Suffolk to protect the vulnerable from doorstep conmen.
The Consumer Champion Network is the idea of Suffolk’s Trading Standards Department in their endeavours to shield, and inform, communities.
Its aim is to create a web of educated and empowered consumers who know their rights. The scheme also strives to make residents more resilient to the scams being operated by rogue traders and high-pressure door-to-door sales people.
Volunteers who act as champions will have access to information about consumer protection and the latest trading standards news.
In addition they will act as a bridge between their communities and the county council’s highly-trained officers to highlight issues in their area.
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Graham Crisp, assistant county trading standards officer, said: “The network offers people a real opportunity to help stamp out rogue trading and scams across Suffolk, which are often targeted at the most vulnerable people in our society.
“By working in conjunction with trading standards, volunteers will gain a real insight into consumer issues. They will also be able to help make their community safer and stronger, and help our service identify where our interventions can be employed most effectively to crack down on rogue traders.”
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County councillor Colin Spence, portfolio holder for public protection, also stressed the potential of the network and the benefit it will have to communities.
He said: “Becoming a ‘consumer champion’ is a chance to make a difference to your community, signpost people to the relevant help and resolve their problems.
“It can also improve understanding of basic trading standards law and enhance future employability.”
The scheme is one of only a handful of similar initiatives operating in the UK, and it is the first to be anchored in social media, with champions able to exchange information and ideas on an online forum.
Experts say the average cost of a doorstep con across the UK is �2,000. However, trading standards officers are certain this type of crime is significantly under-reported for a number of reasons, such as embarrassment or fear of retribution, even if the consumer is aware they are being ripped off.
Those interested in joining the network of consumer champions can do so in a variety of ways to suit their lifestyle and commitment levels.
Among those who have already joined the network are police support volunteers, Citizens Advice Bureau advisers, parish council members and people who are actively involved in helping their community.
Sarah Nagra, Community Engagement Officer at Suffolk Trading Standards Department, said: “The training people receive through the Consumer Champion Network covers a variety of consumer issues from buying goods and services, scams, internet sales to pricing.
“The more consumers know, the less likely they are to fall foul to rogue traders and scams.
“The hope in the future is to have a network of consumer champions that covers every town and village, to create a rogue-free Suffolk.”
If you are interested in joining the scheme and getting involved visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/consumerchampion or call 01473 264859.