Retailer Poundworld has been fined £63,000 for selling vests that were misleadingly described as hi-viz.
At St Albans Crown Court on Friday 20 November, Poundworld Retail Limited were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £42,395.10 in an agreed confiscation order as well as £6,123.16 prosecution costs. This follows an investigation by Hertfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards.
On 28 March 2014, Trading Standards purchased an Edwards Tools and Accessories Hi-Viz Safety Vest for £1 from Poundworld in Watford. The vest was subsequently tested to measure its visibility in low-light conditions and the results were described as ‘amongst the worst results ever recorded’ by the testing company.
Following this, Poundworld agreed to withdraw the product from sale on 5 June 2014 but stated that they had never received any complaints about the vests and therefore believed the test failures could be attributable to a batch problem.
The vest was then tested for visibility in daytime light conditions and again failed. As a result, Poundworld conducted a national recall of the products on 16 January 2015.
In mitigation it was accepted that Poundworld had dealt with the matter swiftly, by withdrawing stocks from sale immediately, and following it up with a recall. The court heard that the company takes compliance seriously, had been co-operative throughout, and had worked with their local trading standards home authority. It had a thorough complaints procedure and had changed policies, now using UK test centres to provide reliable reports.
It was submitted that this was an uncharacteristic breach. The company had relied on their suppliers, had been misled by them and had lost out as a result. The court acknowledged that they had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “The public have purchased over 95,000 of these seemingly bargain vests with a false sense of security, no doubt trusting the descriptions on the packaging, that they would be safe and seen, when they would have been nothing of the sort. This case should act as a warning to all businesses that fail to complete adequate safety checks, putting customers at risk of serious injury or death. Trading Standards will have no hesitation in investigating such cases and if diligence is found to be lacking, put them before the court.”
Alan Murray, CEO of the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), said: “It is extremely disappointing that such a well-known retailer would be selling a product that was misleading and could put lives at risk. The BSIF operates the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme where members have binding commitments to only supply products which meet the relevant standards. More information on this scheme is available at www.bsif.co.uk"
Poundworld has had five previous convictions between 2008 and 2013 for other consumer protection law breaches.