Trading Standards budget cut of 40% risks negative impacts on legitimate traders, warns FAST | FAST

Trading Standards budget cut of 40% risks negative impacts on legitimate traders, warns FAST

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Preservation of strong enforcement measures needed to protect legitimate UK businesses and consumers

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has warned that dramatic cuts to Trading Standards’ budgets risks creating a rogue’s charter. The UK must retain its strong enforcement of Intellectual Property law if it is to remain attractive to the creators of content and encourage innovation.

The latest Trading Standards Workforce Survey has found that by 2016 most Trading Standards services in England and Wales will have had their budgets cut by an average of 40 per cent compared with their 2010 levels. The report revealed that the majority of respondents were being forced to cut some of their services as a direct result of their reduced budgets, with Intellectual Property enforcement highlighted as one of those areas ‘under threat’.

Responding to the report, Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel of FAST, warned that the advance of budget cuts risks unpicking the fabric of IP crime enforcement, to the detriment of the software industry.

Hobbins said: “Trading Standards officers play a vital role in deterring the rogues who commit IP crime. But our concern is that budget cuts, in the form that we are now seeing, will have a dramatic impact on the ability of Trading Standards officers to do their jobs effectively on the street. Moreover, the report suggests that there will inevitably be casualties on the enforcement side, with IP offences likely sliding down the list of priorities. This should be a worry for everyone in the industry. The software industry needs the effective implementation of law enforcement measures in order to keep the market clean and to protect the knowledge economy, which is fast-becoming the UK’s greatest asset.

“Few, if any, government departments have escaped unscathed from recent budget cuts, but it’s important that we do not lose sight of the larger picture of what is at stake here. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently reported that the IT, software and computer services sector accounted for the employment of 791,000 people in the creative economy in 2012, which is 31% of the total UK Creative Economy employment, increasing by 11.6% on 2011. The UK computer software industry is estimated to be worth £9.2bn and employment in the sector has been growing steadily, but this growth depends upon strong Intellectual Property protection and enforcement, without which, the industry is bound to suffer. 

“It’s vital that we maintain the strength and integrity of enforcement agencies, such as Trading Standards, to challenge the sale of counterfeit software and limit any negative effects on the broader economy,” he concluded.