Traders must ensure that descriptions of consumer goods and services are accurate and honest. Descriptions are controlled by both criminal and civil legislation.

What the Law Requires

Any description of the goods or services you supply must be true. A description may be:

  • spoken
  • written or printed
  • a picture
  • an advert

Descriptions may be made by:

  • the seller
  • the buyer
  • the goods themselves

Descriptions about goods can be:

  • physical descriptions like solid brass, waterproof, 3 metres long
  • comments on their history like new, reconditioned, pedigree, organic, one owner
  • who made them, where they were made or who uses them

Descriptions about services may include: 

  • to what standard a job was done
  • who did it
  • how long it took
  • details of your skills or qualifications
  • You must not falsely claim membership of any trade association.
  • You must not suggest any goods or services you supply are approved by anyone unless it is true.
  • You must not say something needs repairing or replacing if it is not necessary.
  • You must not sell counterfeit or pirated goods. Using any registered Trade Mark without permission is illegal.
  • Most video recordings must be marked with an age classification. Copying films and music is illegal.
  • Most clothing, carpets and other fabric products must be marked with an accurate fibre content.
  • Most footwear must be labelled with a clear indication of the materials used in each part. Retailers are responsible for ensuring the footwear is labelled.
  • Estate agents and developers must not make untrue statements about properties they are dealing with.
  • All items of gold, silver or platinum must be correctly hallmarked. You must prominently display a notice, approved by the British Hallmarking Council, explaining hallmarks.
  • The way food is named or described must not be misleading.
  • An energy efficiency label must be displayed on washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges and freezers.
  • Sellers of new motor vehicles must display the manufacturer's official fuel consumption figures.
  • Animal feed and pet food must be labelled with certain compositional details, including any added medication.


More detailed and specific information on the various legislative requirements can be found by visiting our Advice to Consumers, Fair TradingFood and Agriculture and Consumer Rights Act webpages. You can also download the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (pdf 44 kb).

How to comply with the law 

  • Always buy from reputable suppliers
  • Where possible, check that the descriptions on products are true
  • Always describe things exactly as they are described by your supplier
  • Keep all invoices and ensure they properly identify the goods and your supplier
  • Make sure that all your descriptions are clear, accurate and up to date
  • If in doubt, speak to your supplier or your Trading Standards Officer


  • Supply includes to sell, offer and have in possession for supply
  • Making false claims can leave you liable for civil claims and may lead to criminal proceedings
  • It is an implied condition that all services will be completed with reasonable care and skill
  • Goods supplied as part of a service must comply with any claim or description made

Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at OPSI

Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help business to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.

For further information, please contact the Trading Standards Service, Public Safety, Regulation and Development, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH. 

Phone: 0191 2116121. E mail:

Page last updated: 
1 September 2017
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