Northwest not playing fair on cash for gold

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Trading Standards finds half of jewellers weighing gold incorrectly.

Trading Standards has accused jewellers in the Northwest of England of not offering cash-for-gold customers a fair deal, warning consumers “not to become victims of a golden fleece”.

During an investigation into jewellers in the Northwest, which was led by Trading Standards North West but completed by a number of authorities, nearly half of all the weighings its team had carried out by jewellers in the region were done incorrectly.

Trading Standards said that it targeted a wide range of businesses offering cash-for-gold services and that the prices offered to its undercover agents, who were posing as customers, for scrap gold varied greatly in price. In one area the valuation for the same amount of gold differed from £50 to £140, and in another there was a price difference of £225 for the same amount of scrap gold at different vendors.

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The investigation also found that cash-for-gold businesses purporting to offer “best” or “top” prices were often not actually offering the best prices in the area.

As well as trying to determine whether the retailer was offering a fair price, the teams were also scrutinising the stores to evaluate whether the retailers were meeting legal requirements in terms of weighing equipment, descriptions of items and disclosure of business information.

This secondary investigation found that 71% of traders that had not been visited previously were using illegal weighing equipment that does not deliverer accurate measurements. It also found that it is common practice for jewellers in the Northwest to weigh gold out of sight of the customer, which it believes gives traders greater opportunities to carry out fraudulent or inaccurate weighing.

Lancashire County Council chief trading standards officer Paul Noone said that his department is now advising consumers to be more aware when looking to sell scrap gold. It is telling consumers to “use only reputable firms and be vigilant in the way valuations are reached”.

He added: "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."

Jewellers offering cash-for-gold services that would like advice or free, impartial and expert support can contact Trading Standards on 01772 533569.

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