Curbing the kerb-side rogue fishmongers

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 26 Nov 2018

GRIMSBY seafood leaders are helping in the battle to rid the industry of rogue traders, after an investigation was launched into mobile fish sales.

With reputational damage and financial losses big risks should it go unchecked, townbased industry organisation Seafish and Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association are supporting National Trading Standards, providing information and advice as they seek to bring offenders to justice.

An investigation has been triggered with the North East regional branch, with species substitution and the targeting of vulnerable elderly residents with hyper-inflated prices and highly pressured sales techniques understood to have prompted complaints.

Offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and Fraud Act 2006 are being looked at, with those behind the inquiries confirming no Grimsby traders are under suspicion.

It comes virtually four years to the day since the project was launched to raise the standards of the £10 million sole trader-dominated sector, with a code of practice devised to get the 100-plus mobile fishmongers to the highest standards,  culminating in a website – - being built to help consumers locate reputable suppliers.

Simon Dwyer, pictured above, secretariat to the FMA, was a leading figure in initiating that, attracting funding from Seafish to bring in the support of highly experienced environmental health and marketing support.

He said: “Trading standards are having a clampdown on these rogue traders, and they were keen to know how we work.

“This is not reflective of the general industry that this is going on. We want to distance ourselves from this practice and get  the message out that Grimsby fish vans adhere to our established code of practice and can be trusted.”

Read more: Catching a mobile fishmonger gets a little easier thanks to Grimsby's seafood cluster

The site itself clearly states customers can “order as much or as little as you wish, there is no minimum order requirement and no obligation to order every week”.

In a document supplied to the North East team, Seafish has listed the economic, environmental and social harm rogue traders can do, undermining the economic viability and responsible sourcing.

A spokesperson said: “Traditional mobile fishmongers can provide a valuable retail service to rural communities and for those where mobility may be an issue.

“They typically operate with lower overheads and greater flexibility to buy quality fish from a variety of sources at lower prices which can then be passed onto consumers.”

‘The sooner they are eradicated the better’

One Grimsby trader, recognised as an exemplar operator, is well aware of some of the dodgy dealing, having picked up the pieces on his round.

Phil Coyne, trades as Phil’s Grimsby Fish Emporium, and travels weekly to Hertfordshire.

He heard one horror story of a customer’s neighbour being ripped off to the tune of £300 having just moved in, after being told there was a “wonderful fish man” calling  regularly.

“The new customer is now firmly on board with me, but had his fingers burnt, and it harms the trade we are in as it puts people’s guard up,” Mr Coyne said, having seen the appalling quality of what he paid well over the odds for.

“The good guys advertise themselves, the bad guys don’t. When you look at the likes of myself and numerous other mobile fishmongers from our wonderful town, our vehicles are liveried, we promote what we do and where we are from.

“We are not pushy salesmen either. We want trust, we want the money, but we want trust, and the only way you get that is by being reputable, by selling the right products at the right price.”

He hoped quick action will bring an end to the practice.

Read more: 30 new jobs as Grimsby seafood importer turns processor with major investment

“The next month is bonkers. At Christmas people always spend a little bit more on luxury food items such as smoked salmon and prawns.

“It is the busiest time of the year and the last thing we want is people upsetting the apple cart. They are a pain in the back side and sooner they are eradicated the better.”

Seafish’s five-point check before buying from traders

Seafish, based at Europarc, suggests the following five point plan for kerb-side purchases:

  • Buy from a mobile fish van that you recognise and know.
  • Ask questions about the fish and its provenance – a good seller should be only too happy to share traceability information
  • Ask to see a price list and make sure you see the fish being weighed, so you know exactly what you are paying for
  • Only buy the quantity you need and buy fresh wherever possible – you can always freeze later on
  • If it is your chosen method, ask if you can pay by credit card or cheque - a reputable trader should offer various payment methods

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