Huge spike in safety complaints due to 'bedroom sellers' during pandemic

Trading Standards in Cambridgeshire has seen an increase in complaints about "bedroom sellers" during lockdown.

Trading Standards in Cambridgeshire has seen an increase in complaints about "bedroom sellers" during lockdown. - Credit: PA IMAGES

An increase in “bedroom sellers” of online items that pose a “strangulation risk” such as high chairs, unstable trampolines and magnets swallowed by young children – has led to more than 1,000 product recalls during the pandemic.

Trading Standards in Cambridgeshire say the service assigned officers to focus solely on product safety to respond to the “unprecedented, ongoing pressures”. 

It comes as people selling direct from Asia to online shoppers has led to more safety referrals – with many unaware of the legislation. 

Concerns over illegal puppy imports – with the risk of rabies – is also high on the agenda.

In a report from Catherine Pawson, head of operations at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards, it reads: “The service has dealt with issues such as highchairs that present a strangulation risk, melting plugs and sunglasses without adequate UV protection.

"Also injury from electric fans, unsafe electric fires, unstable trampolines, child’s tents, unsafe vaping batteries, high powered magnets swallowed by young children and cannabidiol (CBD) oils.  

“During 2020, 179 safety referrals were dealt with, 100 of which were consumer reports, and 79 of which were referrals from other regulators. 

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“Some 1557 items were withdrawn through product recall.” 

Nine cases of illegally imported puppies were also reported – with a particular increase over the last 18 months. 

“This is driven by the demand for puppies as a result of lockdown," Ms Pawson added.

"Such puppies bring with them a risk of rabies – a disease we have managed to keep out of the UK since the beginning of the twentieth century." 

Home-based food production and catering services were also noted as a risk due to safety during Covid. 

Due to “significant pressures”, certain functions had to stop altogether – illicit tobacco enforcement, underage sales test purchasing, metrology and all planned project work. 

There were also 127 animal welfare concerns reported caused by “waterlogged land leading to immense suffering to the animals involved”, the report stated. 

Some 266 businesses were assisted with Covid-19 related advice and the service’s webpages had 22,000 views for support. 

Consumer complaint numbers doubled to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service too; by 30 per cent from 2897 the previous year. 

Pressures on the Trading Standards teams due to staffing were also highlighted as part of the annual report.

It was discussed at the Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council on December 2.