Fair trading, trade descriptions and Trading Standards

Rules for describing your products and services


Any description of goods that you sell or hire must be accurate.

That description could be:

  • in writing - eg in an advertisement
  • in an illustration - eg on packaging
  • spoken - eg in a sales pitch

The description itself covers a range of factors, including:

  • quantity and size
  • composition
  • method, place and date of manufacture
  • fitness for stated purpose
  • endorsements by people or organisations

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 make it an offence to mislead consumers about goods and services. Misleading practices could include:

  • untruthful advertising
  • leaving out important information
  • deceptive after-sales information

An advert is misleading if it deceives or is likely to deceive the audience and affect their decision on whether or not to buy. This also applies if it unfairly harms, or is likely to unfairly harm, a competitor.

Who do the Regulations apply to?

Any business that trades in goods or services must comply with the Regulations. Directors, managers and other employees can also be liable.

Sector-specific responsibilities in describing goods or services

There are also sector-specific laws regulating the descriptions of many items. For example, there are addtional rules for

  • food and drink
  • precious metals
  • shoes
  • hotel accommodation

You can check which laws apply to the goods and services you trade in by asking your local Trading Standards office - find contact details for the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service.

  • Trading Standards Service Northern Ireland
    0300 123 6262