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Don’t fall foul of scammers this Christmas

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Trading Standards Team are urging shoppers to stay safe when shopping online and looking for bargains this Christmas.

It is important that people buy safely and securely in order to try to prevent themselves falling victim to a scam.

Top tips:

  • Carry out some research into those they are buying from – is it a known company? If not, carry out your own research by looking for online reviews of the seller before deciding to buy and check where they are based. If they are outside the UK/Europe your rights will be limited. Don’t assume the company you are buying from is in the UK even if their contact page says they are. Some overseas based companies put UK or London as their location.
  • Check returns policies – some retailers are offering extended returns periods this year.
  • Use a payment that offers some extra protection to you including credit cards for purchases over £100. Ensure the online link is secure, look for the padlock symbol in the browser and that the address begins https://. The s stands for secure.
  • Regularly check your bank and credit card statements.
  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you may have been a victim of fraud.
  • Use strong separate passwords and keep antivirus software updated and a firewall installed.
  • Watch out for phishing emails or texts – unfortunately if a deal sounds too good to be true then it probably is and could contain links to fake copycat websites. Do not open or reply to suspicious emails or open any attachments and be wary if asked to provide personal information. Forward these to the National Cyber Security Centre at report@phishing.gov.uk who will remove if it is a scam.

Scammers continue to look to take advantage of this time of year with more people shopping online than ever. Scams reported locally include:

  • Fake Royal Mail emails claiming an extra payment is needed for an unsuccessful delivery attempt. Please check out the website at www.royalmail.com for details of current scams relating to deliveries.
  • Bogus emails purporting to be from companies such as Amazon or Paypal trying to trick customers with messages about account issues relating to ordered goods. In these cases customers are led to malicious websites by clicking links contained in the email. If in doubt customers should check their account using their own login details.

Consumers should also be aware of the dangers of unsafe products being sold online. This is a particular issue for third party sellers on online marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay.

The British Toy and Hobby Association conducted a survey over the past two years, purchasing toys from sellers on online platforms and then having them safety tested. Over the past year, they found 86% of the toys purchased were illegal to sell in the UK as they failed to comply with UK toy safety requirements and 60% were unsafe for a child to play with.

No one wants to take risks with toy safety so please consider the following guidelines:-

  • Look for the ‘CE’ symbol: this means the toy has passed safety Tests.
  • Button battery safety: Check they are screwed in safely before giving to a child.
  • Check age restrictions: toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions. Always follow the age recommendations.
  • Check the price: if it’s much cheaper than you’d expect, it may be counterfeit.
  • Buy toys from a reputable seller: check reviews and ratings carefully.

It’s not only toys. Last year, Which? found that almost half of Christmas tree lights sold through online marketplaces were unsafe. The study also found that 66% of electrical products purchased on online marketplaces failed crucial safety tests.

There has also been a recent increase of counterfeit Dyson hair dryers being imported for sale in the UK. These are being sold at a much cheaper price than the recommended retail price. These are inferior, potentially dangerous, copies.

If someone needs consumer advice or wishes to report a scam they can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh Speaker these details will be shared with Trading Standards who may also make contact by phone to offer support and advice.

Trading Standards have produced an Avoiding Scams Advice Booklet which contains the latest guidance on different types of scams and practical advice on how consumers can protect themselves.

This is available on the Pembrokeshire County Council website at https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/consumer-advice/avoiding-scams-advice-booklet or alternatively a printed copy can be provided.

Please email TSConsumer@pembrokeshire.gov.uk for a copy.

 

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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News

Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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