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BEWARE OF DEL BOY TRADERS - COUNCIL LEADERS WARN

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Thousands of 'pedlars' selling substandard or fake goods are set to invade town centres as the holiday season gets ...
Thousands of 'pedlars' selling substandard or fake goods are set to invade town centres as the holiday season gets underway.

Council licensing officers say the Easter weekend and warmer weather mark the start of a summer of illegal street selling, particularly in resort areas, that takes millions of pounds from legitimate businesses.

The pedlars use black bin bags or wheeled trolleys to sell goods such as fake clothes and mobile phone covers. They exploit an outdated law from 1871, and it is very difficult for local councils and police to move them on.

Councils are today calling for the power to designate where pedlars can trade and for greater authority to confiscate goods being peddled. They also recommend the whole pedlar licensing system be overhauled.

Bryony Rudkin, of the Local Government Association, said: 'Pedlars might sound like loveable Del Boys, working out of an old suitcase on the pavement, but they are a huge problem.

'Their clutter is an eyesore and the pedlars can become quite aggressive. At busy times they can hijack a high street selling fake goods, or cheap toys and lighters that have often not undergone proper safety checks.

'Holidays bring them out and we're expecting a busy Easter weekend. Then over the summer they flock to seaside towns and major town centres. Christmas is also a nightmare. In some town centres the whole footpath gets blocked with trolleys and pallets.

'Neighbouring businesses lose a lot of trade. Many smaller shops in town centres are struggling anyway, yet some of these pedlars make£600 a day and have no overheads. It's big business, and we're concerned criminal gangs are involved.

'The government must give all councils the clout to clear pedlars off the streets.'

A law from 1871 means pedlars are exempted from street trading laws laid down in 1982, and pedlar certificates are easily obtained from the police. Newcastle city council spent£200,000 on a private act that stamped out a pedlar problem, and London boroughs are subject to similar, separate legislation that defines where pedlars can operate.

Fake goods can be seized by trading standards officers, but the 'temporary' nature of pedlar stalls can make this difficult, and it would not address the other antisocial problems of peddling. Not all councils affected by pedlars have trading standards officers, and the LGA is calling for designated officers at all councils to be able to seize peddled goods, fake or not. Councils also need powers to stop pedlars setting up shop in the first place, whatever they are selling.

NOTES

* Bryony Rudkin is the chair of the Safer Communities Board at the Local Government Association.

* Other items reported by local authorities that pedlars regularly sell include: silly string, stink bombs, counterfeit clothing, wire ornaments shaped into people's names, football paraphernalia, fake DVDs and CDs, jewellery, anti-rheumatism bracelets, wrapping paper, hair plaiting services, and fake cigarettes.

* Regional case studies and interviews with council licensing officers can be arranged through the LGA media office.

* The legislative template to tackle pedlars already exists but has only been implemented when councils paid for it individually. In addition to Newcastle, Medway Council took out similar legislation, which changed the legal definition of pedlars, at a cost of£70,000.

* Prosecuting pedlars is expensive and time consuming. A recent conviction cost Canterbury City Council£1,000 to secure, but the pedlar was fined only£120.

* Street traders are licensed by the consent of the council or by a special licence. A pedlar is supposed to go from place to place, calling on customers. Those standing still on a high street are trading illegally.

* The LGA and National Association of British Market Authorities are speaking with the All Parliamentary Group for the Markets Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry to try and secure changes in the law.

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