TRADING standards in the county are no longer helping residents with disputes over returning mis-sold items due to a lack of funds.

The admission comes after a Worcester resident contacted the county council after being told she could not get a refund for an ill-fitting phone case she was sold – even with a receipt.

Worcestershire County Council said it has never had the power, or the legal duty, to intervene in disputes between individuals and businesses over mis-sold items.

But the council did admit in a letter that whilst trading standards would have previously offered advice on the dispute, it was only dealing with the worst crimes - such as doorstep scams, underage selling and fake cigarettes – due to its financial position.

The letter from Simon Wilkes, head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, said: “The issue you raise is not one that the trading standards service in Worcestershire can currently respond to directly.

“In the past, the service could have provided support in relation to the kind of civil law dispute that you have with this business, however, due to the current financial position of local authorities, Worcestershire County Council has had to restrict its trading standard service to dealing with the worst criminal issues that the county council has a legal duty to deal with.

“Civil issues like yours do not fall into this category.”

Worcestershire County Council said trading standards was now only focusing on matters where it has a legal duty to intervene.

A spokesman for the council said: “Councils have never had powers to make businesses comply with individual situations like the one referenced by the complainant and the council has no legal duty to intervene.

“The trading standards team still advise residents on where best to go for further support. In recent years, the council has had to prioritise its legal duties in the trading standards area.

“In this instance, the Citizens Advice Consumer Service is available to advise on how to handle this kind of situation and their website has lots of useful information on how to help residents try and resolve these disputes.”