Government seeks views on street trading

The government is considering sweeping changes to the rules governing street trading.

Business minister Jo Swinson has said that the Pedlars Act, a piece of 19th Century legislation restricting the activities of travelling salespeople, should be scrapped in favour of new, less stringent rules.

The Act currently places restrictions on street trading and door-to-door selling, requiring so-called ‘pedlars’ to apply for a licence from the police. It also prohibits those under the age of 17 from selling items on foot.

Ms Swinson has described the law as “archaic”. Changes to the rules will, she says, “eliminate barriers to street traders and pedlars by making it easier to trade, boosting retail and helping small traders – including many young entrepreneurs – to expand and grow.” It is also thought that changes may be required in order to ensure that the Act complies with European legislation.

But the proposals have been met with concern from both local government and consumer organisations. Councillors have suggested that scrapping the rules could create a ‘free-for-all’, working against the interests of established High Street retailers. Others maintain that the Act is a vital protection against unscrupulous cold-callers.

A key concern is that councils will no longer be able to refuse a pedlar’s application on the grounds that the area already has too many traders or shops. Many are worried that this will make life more difficult for retailers, many of which are already struggling to secure the custom they need.

The government is currently consulting on changes to the law, and is seeking responses from interested parties. All ‘stakeholders’ are encouraged to submit their views. You can respond to the consultation through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website.