Fair trading

IMG_831401Stuart Farr has all the legal knowledge you need to prepare your stand and get the game fair season off to a good start

I look forward to this year’s trade and game fair season. For many of us, these fairs and exhibitions offer a great way to see the latest products on the market and, perhaps more importantly, talk to those who are selling them. So much business is done long-distance nowadays that the ability to mix and communicate with traders provides a welcome opportunity for all those involved in shooting at any level.

Trade fairs place additional logistical, practical and financial burdens on traders, and the economic instability of recent years has emphasised that efficient planning and careful management are important in ensuring traders have a good experience at these events. Hiring a pitch and paying for extra staff, travel, hotel and meal expenses all have to be added into the mix. Covering these costs is essential to making a profit or at least ensuring that attendance at a fair or show is worthwhile from a commercial perspective.

Aside from the commercial aspects, it is helpful to bear in mind the legal issues when arranging to attend these events. Setting up shop away from your normal premises could mean altering how you organise and present yourself. Keeping an eye on these issues could help avoid problems emerging.

The transport and safe storage of firearms is generally a good place to start, as many traders will be involved in taking a variety of guns to the shows to sell or merely display them for public viewing or interest. The Firearms Security Handbook (produced jointly by the Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers and British Shooting Sports Council) offers advice and guidance on the requirements in this area.

Those involved in the carriage of guns (including component parts and ammunition) must take all reasonable precautions for their safe custody while in their possession. Vehicles carrying guns or ammunition must either have a secured load-carrying area out of sight or within the secure area of the vehicle. These areas must be secured with high-security locks, padlocks (of the appropriate level of security – normally level four) or other deadlocks. The load-carrying area of car-derived vans and other goods carrying vehicles must be separated from the driver’s compartment. The vehicle must not be left unattended at any time when the guns, components or ammunition are within it, and the vehicle should preferably be equipped with a two-way communication system or a suitable vehicle tracking system. If neither of those is viable owing to the length of journey or terrain, the vehicle should at least be capable of being immobilised from inside the driver’s compartment.

In addition, loading or unloading guns should be carried out discreetly. Whenever possible it should be done in secure conditions – although when this is not possible, as in the case of many country fairs, guns must be boxed or covered to conceal their contents. Where guns and similar articles are transported within display cases, the vehicle used should allow for all cases to be within its closed luggage or goods area. While loading and unloading, the vehicle must either be continuously attended or secured between each operation.

0201Ensuring your trade stand is safe and unlikely to cause incident or injury either to members of the public or your staff is equally important. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the legislation to bear in mind as far as your employees are concerned. Under the 1974 Act, employers and employees are duty-bound to ensure the health, safety and welfare of people at work. Apart from these statutory obligations imposed upon employers in the workplace, at common law an employer also owes a duty to take reasonable care of the safety of each employee. Failure to comply with these duties can result in criminal convictions as well as civil sanctions (usually as a result of civil actions brought against employers personally by their employees).

In broad terms, the law expects employers, in particular, to behave in a way that demonstrates good management and common sense. They must look out for and assess the hazards in the workplace and also adopt sensible and appropriate measures to deal with them.

Prevention is always better than cure, and there are many flexible steps that businesses can take to prevent accidents in the workplace. At trade exhibitions, it is always sensible to do a thorough examination of the stand, once constructed, to look out for trip hazards, sharp objects and anything else that might cause injury in the event of someone tripping, slipping or falling. Formulating and implementing a health and safety plan beforehand is a good way of ensuring compliance, because this will bring together all the risk elements into a single, useful and co-ordinated process. Training and information for employees, emergency planning (administering of first aid, fire-fighting and evacuation) and the delegation of tasks to competent and trained persons on site are just some of the aspects you should consider.

You will also owe a duty of care to the public to prevent damage or injury to people. Adopting the above procedures for your employees will help avoid similar problems with visitors. In any event, it is advisable to obtain and check the conditions of any public liability insurance to ensure it covers you for exhibitions away from your normal premises.

In terms of your regular activities, it is worth checking your stock, brochures and pricing to ensure they are adopted consistently when you conduct business away from home. Pricing is a particularly important issue at country fairs – many people use them as an opportunity to bargain hunt and compare prices in the convenience of one venue. On such occasions, it can be useful to read the principles laid down in the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP code), which is enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It sets out a number of principles:

•    Prices quoted in advertisements to the public should include value-added tax and any other taxes or duties
•    A stated price should be clear and relate to the advertised product. Prices should match the products illustrated (which is especially important where brochures are distributed with separate price lists)
•    If the price of one product is dependent on the purchase of another, the extent of any commitment on the part of the consumer must be made absolutely clear
•    Price claims (such as ‘up to’ and ‘from’) should not exaggerate the availability of benefits that may be obtained by the consumer
•    A recommended retail price, or similar, that is used as a basis for comparison should be genuine

The temptation to engage in comparative pricing and advertising can prevail at fairs, whose competitive nature encourages traders to attract as many customers as possible to their stands (drawing them away from those of their competitors). A comparative advert is one that identifies a competitor or a product offered by a competitor. The reference to a competitor doesn’t have to be explicit – implied references also count.

Be careful to ensure that any comparative adverts you use do not contain false information, deceive or cause the average consumer to take a different decision about goods and services than they might otherwise take. Great care should be taken to ensure the products being compared meet the same needs or are intended for the same purpose. Among other things, the comparison should be objective and verifiable, should not discredit other trade names or trademarks (or the products, activities or circumstances of a competitor) or take unfair advantage of the reputation of another trader.

Undertaking a review of your intended advertising and selling campaigns in this context is a useful exercise, ensuring inconsistencies that could lead to complaints from consumers (or competitors) do not crop up. Carry out sales promotions with vigilance. Clear, sensible and unambiguous pricing will enable you to address any issues quickly.

I hope these pointers will help guide your thoughts and planning as we head towards the spring. Most of all, I wish you a successful season this year. Don’t forget that there are many people (like me) who appreciate the effort and great lengths you go to to make each fair an enjoyable and memorable occasion. Until then, let’s also hope for decent weather – the most unpredictable factor of them all.

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