Trading standards warning over ‘golden fleece’

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TRADING standards officers in Lancashire are warning people not to become victims of a “golden fleece”.

A recent survey across the North West by trading standards watchdogs has revealed that people who are cashing in their old jewellery may not be receiving its true value for the scrap gold from traders.

The survey found that nearly half of all weighings by jewellers may be inaccurate.

The work was conducted jointly by a number of authorities across the region. It was co-ordinated by Trading Standards North West.

In the study, trading standards officers posing as customers conducted visits to a range of jewellers across the North West to obtain valuations for scrap gold items. As well as determining whether customers were getting a fair deal when selling their jewellery, they also inspected the premises to establish if legal requirements on weighing equipment, descriptions of items, marking and the disclosure of business information were being met.

The survey found the prices offered varied greatly from one trader to another. In one area, the valuations ranged from £50 to £140 for the same goods, while in another area, the prices quoted differed by a staggering £225.

It also found claims by some jewellers that they were paying best or top prices were untrue.

Officers established that 71% of traders who had not been visited previously were using illegal weighing equipment which could not be relied on for accuracy. They also found it is common practice for traders to weigh the gold out of sight of the customer providing a greater opportunity for fraudulent or inaccurate weighing.

Paul Noone, Lancashire County Council’s chief trading standards officer, said: “The popularity of selling precious metal items in this way has increased dramatically as the economic situation takes effect. Our findings show how important it is to use only reputable firms and be vigilant in the way valuations are reached.

“We urge people to insist on the weighing being done in front of them. If the trader refuses, find a jeweller who will weigh the item properly.

“These results indicate that valuations can vary wildly, so shopping around is definitely recommended. Find out the market rate so you know whether a valuation is fair and ask what price per gram is being paid by the trader before handing the item over to be valued.”

Any traders wanting advice or free, impartial and expert support on many aspects of their business can contact Lancashire’s trading standards service on 01772 533569.