Each year scams cost three million UK consumers 3.5 billion GBP, with scam emails plaguing 73% of adults every year. The UK Government today announced the formation of a new specialist cyber enforcement team, as well as extra funding for Trading Standards.
Over the next three years, the Government will invest 4.3 million GBP in a series of measures. For example, the Office of Fair Trading now has a fully equipped laboratory with specialist equipment for tracing and analyzing cyber crime. With staff currently being trained by an international expert, it is hoped that the laboratory will improve the OFT’s capability across all of its enforcement work from cartels to consumer protection cases.
Minister Kevin Brennan said:
“The internet is rapidly transforming the way we shop. It presents massive opportunities for consumers, but unfortunately it also harbours fraudsters who can leave consumers upset and out of pocket.”
The new OFT teams will focus on a number of areas, including online traders who try to hide their true identity to make it more difficult for consumers to seek redress. The new team will also tackle scams involving counterfeit or non-existent tickets and bargain purchases, which either never materialize or turn out to be counterfeit products.
Heather Clayton, OFT Senior Director, said:
“Online consumer protection is a key priority for the OFT. The enforcement team will be looking at the activities of a wide range of commercial websites and taking action in cases where consumers’ rights are being abused. Ultimately, giving the public even greater confidence to shop online is what drives the activities of our enforcement team.”
TSI’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said:
“I am delighted to see this investment in trading standards. The profession has invaluable skills and experience fighting scams in the non-virtual world that will now be put to excellent use in the cyber teams.
“These specialist teams will help us be a modern regulatory service that can handle the increasingly complex threats and demands of the online market, which is fundamental to consumer and business protection, and renewed prosperity.”
Last year, the Government announced the creation of a dedicated Office of Cyber Security, responsible for overseeing a programme of work that spans Government agencies, while a new multi-agency Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) in Cheltenham has the role of bringing together existing computer forensic activity to monitor the health of cyberspace and co-ordinate incident response.