Local authority uncovers long-established scam at local goldsmith.
The winner of the 2013 Touchstone Award has been announced as North Ayrshire Council.
The council scooped the prize for an in-depth look at "deceit and exploitation", revealing consumer malpractice which involved not only non-hallmarking of articles but manufacture of under-carat products.
The award praises the work of local authorities with a view to hallmarking and is sponsored by the four UK Assay Offices and the British Hallmarking Council.
This year marks only the second that the award has been given, with the prize presented at a dinner at the Trading Standards Conference in Brighton earlier this month.
The award was presented to North Ayrshire council’s Mark Smith by the chairman of the British Hallmarking Council, Christopher J. Jewitt .
Jewitt said: “Hallmarking is the oldest form of consumer protection and is vital in order to protect consumers. The work detailed in the applications for the Touchstone Award clearly demonstrates that there is still an important job to be done in relation to hallmarking. The winning entry from North Ayrshire which was unanimously chosen as the winner by each of the individual judges on the panel reveals a sad tale of deceit and exploitation. People ignoring the hallmarking legislation may be defrauding large numbers of the population and there may be big money involved.”
Applications for this year’s Touchstone Award were submitted from across the UK this year and were said to be of a particularly high calibre, demonstrating "careful long term pre-operational planning, and robust implementation strategies".
The winning entry from North Ayrshire detailed the non-hallmarking of articles but manufacture of under-carat products. The area has seen an explosion in the trading of scrap gold in recent years, driven by the high price of gold.
Trading Standards has monitored the local North Ayrshire market place and, through close scrutiny and mystery shopping, revealed a long-established scam involving a local goldsmith who was cheating his customers on a regular basis by returning repairs which were under-carated, or not returning them at all. Further investigations prompted 120 complaints against the goldsmith and a prosecution is now in progress.
The British Hallmarking Council also congratulated the London Borough of Southwark and North Lanarkshire whose entries were Highly Commended by the judges. The North Ayrshire team will also benefit from a free day’s training and an awards lunch at Goldsmiths’ Hall in November.
Trading Standards Institute chief executive Leon Livermore said: "The Touchstone Award is a fantastic initiative by the British Hallmarking Council and we are delighted to host the awards ceremony here at our Conference.
"The efforts of North Ayrshire Council trading standards make them a truly deserving winner – their operation revealed consumer malpractice which involved not only hall-marking issues but also under-carat items, causing real detriment to consumers in the area.
"Uncovering scams in their local area provides the community with reassurance that their local council and trading standards department are actively seeking out those who flout consumer laws and regulations. This can only cause a positive effect across the country and make rogue traders think twice, whatever county they operate in."