Rogue retailers selling black market tobacco and serving underage customers could go unpunished if the government goes ahead with new legislation, ministers have been warned.

Clauses in the Consumer Rights Bill aimed at easing regulation faced by local shops would mean that retailers will get a 48-hour notice ahead of any spot checks.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) have warned that it would jeopardise the work they do in identifying shops which break the law.

[pull_quote_right]Requiring trading standards officers to make judgements about reasonable suspicion will create a broad brush approach which will stop them from doing their jobs properly – Tony Allen, Underage Sales[/pull_quote_right]

They have secured an exemption which means that officials can visit without prior notice where there is “reasonable suspicion” that health is at risk.

The LGA and TSI have now demanded a redrafting of the law before it is returned to the House of Lords in October.

Tony Allen, managing director of Underage Sales, which offers training to the retail industry, said: “This law risks bringing about a system where it doesn’t matter that a business is honest and above board, merely that the owners open their letters.

“Requiring trading standards officers to make judgements about reasonable suspicion will create a broad brush approach which will stop them from doing their jobs properly.”

Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg is among opponents and told RN: “You risk placing so much restriction on law enforcers that they cannot do their jobs.”

Last week RN reported that trading standards had cut the number of test purchases by an average of 44% in the last five years.

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and skills said: “The opposition did table an amendment to remove that 48-hour notice but it was not successful.

“There are some exemptions where there is need for a surprise visit and trading standards will have to show that there is a public health and safety risk.”

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