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Will Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill Become Law Before July 4th Election?

The Prime Minister stood in front of Number 10 Downing Street last night in the pouring rain to announce a summer election. This was an unexpected shock to many of his political party. Rishi Sunak remained focused and determined to outline his key objectives for the general public who will be voting on July 4th this year.

This was despite demonstrators loudly playing Labour’s 1997 election anthem ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ which is a British pop song by D:Ream that tunefully competed with Sunak’s eloquent, detailed and important speech. Rishi Sunak spoke about the Conservatives achievements so far. These included the furlough scheme during the covid pandemic, supporting Ukraine, increasing NHS spending and improving childcare and education.

However, Sunak’s summer election announcement is now dubbed jokingly ‘Things will only get wetter’ by the Conservative party’s political opponents.

One of Rishi Sunak’s important goals is to complete the law that prevented future generations from ever taking up smoking, a key healthcare mission to complete for the Conservative government, under the current health-conscious Prime Minister’s leadership.

Rishi Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill Clearly Passes Through Commons

The UK’s smokefree future is clearer after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill passed through the Commons with a strong majority in favour last month.

What is the Tobacco and Vapes Bill?

On Saturday 20th April 2024 the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was approved by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons after a huge majority voted in favour of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to prevent a new generation (and future generations) of United Kingdom citizens from ever taking up smoking. (8)

Vape flavours will also be legally restricted and packaging and displays will avoid appealing to children. Vapes will not be able to be sold near sweets in shops. New rules for UK based retailers will control how vapes can be displayed for ensuring only adults can purchase this merchandise. (1)

‘On the spot’ fines will be introduced to clamp down on sales of vapes and tobacco to children under 18 years old. Enforcement officers will be able to issue £100 fines immediately if they find underage sales of tobacco and vaping products. Local authorities can already issue a maximum £2500 fine and this legislation will now apply to the new age restriction.

It will be illegal to give free samples of vapes to those under 18 years of age. (1)

Smoking itself not criminalised. Anyone who can legally buy tobacco now is not prevented from doing so in the future.

£70 million of funding has already been announced by the UK government to enable local ‘stop smoking services’ which include swapping to vaping and behavioural support to quit the habit. (1)

£5 million budget has been approved for new national campaigns to explain the legal changes, the benefits of quitting smoking and the healthcare support that is available to people wanting to change to a healthier lifestyle. (2)

Who will be affected by the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and when does it start?

The new Tobacco and Vapes Bill, once approved by the House of Lords, will be introduced into law in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in June 2024 if everything proceeds as expected. This will mean children turning 15 years of age this year or younger will never legally be able to be sold tobacco. Once fully approved by Westminster anyone born after 1 January 2009 will never legally be able to buy tobacco products. (1)

The smoking bill was originally introduced to parliament on Wednesday 20th March and was approved by the House of Commons this week, with a large majority in favour of introducing the new law. There is wide support for the new measures by both Conservatives and Labour members of parliament. (1)

The proportion of young people using disposable vapes has increased nine times in the last 2 years. The government is committed to banning the sale and supply of disposable vapes from April 2025 under separate environmental legislation. (1)

How will Tobacco and Vapes Bill work?

Andrew Opie is Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium. The British Retail Consortium is supporting retailers to implement the new age of sale legislation and regulations regarding the selling of vapes all across the nation and in a timely manner. (1)

Andrew Opie explained that “It is important that the legislation operates in the same way across the UK as this will help ensure clarity and consistency for customers.” (1)

The government proposes that (retailer’s tobacco) display statements will need to be changed and required to read “it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009”. (2)

The government has launched new educational resources for teachers to educate secondary school children about the dangers of smoking and vaping. (4)

The UK government’s ‘Swap to Stop’ scheme also includes “financial incentives for pregnant smokers to quit.” The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend the use of vouchers of up to £400 for pregnant women quitting smoking whilst following a programme that includes behavioural support services.  (2)

Stop Smoking Services (SSS) are proving a cost-effective way of supporting smokers to quit band have shown to double a person’s chances of giving up the habit. In addition to offering specific stop smoking products and medicine, SSS are most effective when combined with behavioural support services. (2)

There is wide support for the Tobacco and Vapes Bill

“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced…All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco.” World Health Organisation (2)

Raising the age of the sale of tobacco products has strong public backing. Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths than ending smoking.” Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director of Policy (1)

“Smoking causes harm across the life course. This includes stillbirth, asthma, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 15 different types of cancer, stroke and dementia. “Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer for England (1)

“Everyday 350 young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 start smoking regularly, risking a lifetime of addiction, disease, disability and premature death.” The Tobacco and Vapes Bill “sets a course to the extinction of smoking in the UK.” Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (1)

“Reducing the impact of passive smoking on pregnant women and children will be a key outcome too.” Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (1)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also wants to “tackle the alarming rise in youth vaping” by introducing the Tobacco and Vapes Bill which includes new strict legislation regarding the sale of vapes to minors. (1)

Smokefree Future or Smoking Apartheid?

There are some voices of opposition to the law changes expected in the Tobacco and Vapes Bill this spring.

Freedom is a core part of the values of any democracy. Some people in the UK oppose the idea of the state restricting what they consider to be personal lifestyle choices. Many citizens were shocked at the loss of freedom to meet or to travel during the legal lockdowns that were introduced because of the recent health pandemic. Further strengthening smoking and vaping laws could be seen as another example of government legal restrictions that are not always appropriate or practical when enforced in practice in the community.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “A Conservative government should not be seeking to extend the nanny state. It only gives succour to those who wish to curtail freedom.” (6) Objectors including Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk Liz Truss have accused the policy of being “profoundly unconservative”. (7)

The Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch voted against the bill asserting that “the burden of enforcement would fall on private businesses, and that the bill undermined the principle of equality.” According to the Guardian Kemi Badenoch was concerned that legally competent adults born a day apart would be treated differently in terms of their permanent rights. (7)

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reported in the Guardian as saying the plan was “nuts”. The BBC said Johnson “has previously criticised the plans as “barmy,” arguing the 2009 cut-off will lead to a “smoking apartheid,” with some adults allowed to carry on buying cigarettes and others not.” (6) (7)

Smokers’ rights group Forest, which is funded by the tobacco industry, said: “No-one wants children to smoke, but the idea that government should take away people’s freedom to choose long after they have grown up is absurd.” (6) The Guardian have reported that Forest have accused the government from being “ageist” as it would mean similar aged adults would have different rights when it came to smoking.

Some citizens may be concerned about the government banning anything that may possibly be abused. Many other forms of life’s more enjoyable treats are sensibly enjoyed by most adults in moderation. People may be worried that fun activities may be further restricted. Luxury and celebratory delights and delicacy’s such as fireworks, fine wine or high sugar foods could become the next target for legal banning in the future. The former cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke said: “An enforcement nightmare and a slippery slope – alcohol next?” (7)

The Guardian have reported that international tobacco companies have been lobbying politicians and may attempt to slow down the process through the House of Lords. It has been suggested in the British press that tobacco manufacturers may encourage additional exemptions to be written into the Tobacco and Vapes Bill (for example cigars) or the tobacco product suppliers could propose increased legislation through more complicated licensing agreements, to try and slow down, complicate and ultimately frustrate the progression of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill through to becoming law throughout the United Kingdom this year. (8)

Smokefree Future: can we lead the way in the UK in order to improve world health standards?

The final vote in the Lords is expected to take place in June of this year. It is an opportunity for the UK to take a lead in the challenge of preventing this and future generations from becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco products and all the negative aspects that this can bring to an adult’s life and their families in the long term.

We have former smokers in the HotEnough.com team and we understand personally the challenges of breaking the cycle of nicotine cravings. We know how hard and equally how important this is to live a healthy adult lifestyle that is free of addiction and the associated financial costs of this expensive habit.

We hope that this Tobacco and Vapes Bill moves smoothly through the process to become law as soon as possible. It may not be an absolutely perfect way to stop our young people from being exposed to this harmful toxic addiction. It is the best chance that we have to stop the cycle of this dangerous activity from blighting the lives of another generation and their loved ones.

The future benefits to our society will be massive and we can show global healthcare leadership with this policy. This Tobacco and Vapes Bill combined with a comprehensive anti-smoking and vaping schools’ education programme will ensure that we have an opportunity to demonstrate how we can be, as a nation, the responsible, healthy, environmentally friendly and caring change we want to see in the world.

(1) ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins MP, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Gov.UK official UK government website, 20 April 2024 ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins MP, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Gov.UK (2) ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Gov.UK official UK government website, 8 November 2023 ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Gov.UK (3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website, August 2023 ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website (4) Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England, 25 April 2024 Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England, (5) ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre, DHSC Media Team, 15 April 2024 ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre (6) ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News, 20 March 2024 ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News (7) ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 16 April 2024 ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian (8) ‘Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 16 April 2024 Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian (9) ‘Things can only get wetter: D:Ream song drowns out Sunak’s damp election announcement’ Sammy Gecsoyler, The Guardian, 22 May 2024 ‘Things can only get wetter: D:Ream song drowns out Sunak’s damp election announcement’ Sammy Gecsoyler, The Guardian (10) Rishi Sunak Announces 4 July general election’ Nadia Ragozhina, BBC News Rishi Sunak Announces 4 July general election’ Nadia Ragozhina  

Smoking and Vaping: Hot Topic for PM Rishi Sunak’s UK Law Reforms

Who smokes in 2024?

Currently 12.9% of people in the UK (or 6.4 million) smoke. Smoking is a third of its height in 1974 and has fallen by more than a third in the last decade. Raising the minimum age of sale for cigarettes and other smoking related products to 18 years of age has significantly reduced the prevalence of smoking in young people. (2)

Smoking rates in older teens remain high – over 12% of 16- to 17-year-olds smoke in England and over 30% of under 18 pregnant mother(s) smoke. (5)

Youth vaping is a global issue with 1 in 10 middle and high school students in the USA using vapes regularly. Two-fold or greater increases have been found in Australia, Italy, Germany and France.

2021 showed a recent doubling of regular vape use (at least once a week) among young people in England from 2% in 2018 to 4% in 2021. In 2020 menthol cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were banned and outlawed in Great Britain as international evidence showed that many young people start smoking by using menthol cigarettes. (2)

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill could make UK healthier and wealthier

Those politicians wishing to introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill agree that: smoking kills around 80,000 people in the UK every year and causes 1 in 4 cancer-related deaths as well as disability and ill health. Smoking is the single biggest preventable killer. (1) (5)

There is no other consumer product available to the public that kills two-thirds of its users. If new legislation is not introduced nearly half a million more people will die from smoking by 2030 (2)

Raising the age of the sale of tobacco products has strong public backing. Nothing would have a bigger impact on reducing the number of preventable deaths than ending smoking.” Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director of Policy (1)

Smoking and Vaping: Why prevention is better than cure

There is no safe age to smoke. 4 in 5 smokers start smoking before the age of 20 years old and are then addicted (to nicotine) for the rest of their lives. (1)

Three-quarters of current smokers would never have started if they had the choice again and on average it takes around 30 attempts to succeed in quitting smoking for good. (2)

Smoking is one of the most significant and preventable drivers of disparities in health outcomes. This includes premature death caused by smoking related diseases. This bill means that future generations will be protected from the harmful and detrimental effects of living a lifestyle as a smoker. (1)

Those who are unemployed, on low incomes or living in areas of deprivation are far more likely to smoke than the general population. Smoking attributable mortality rates are 2.1 times higher in the most deprived local authorities in the United Kingdom than the least deprived.

Vapes contain nicotine which is harmful and addictive. The long-term health implications of vaping are not fully known yet. Withdrawal from nicotine can cause anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches. So, the governments acknowledges that while vaping can play a role in helping adults quit the smoking habit, children should never vape. (1)

Preventing young people from taking up vaping is better for the environment

The use of disposable vaping products (sometimes referred to as single use vapes) has increased substantially in recent years. These devices are neither rechargeable nor refillable and are discarded when it runs out of charge or e-liquid. They contain plastic, copper, rubber, and a lithium battery. Some parts, like the battery, can be widely recycled, whereas other parts, such as any rubber pieces, are not easily recyclable. (2)

Treating Smoking Related Diseases are Preventable National Health Service Costs

Treating smoking related diseases creates “huge pressure” on the National Health Service and it is estimated that smoking related illness currently costs the country £17 billion a year. This figure includes an annual £14 billion loss to productivity, through smoking related lost earnings, unemployment, and early death as well as costs to the National Health Service and social care of £3 billion. (1)

Up to 75,000 General Practitioner doctor’s appointments could be attributed to smoking each month in England. Therefore, if smoking can be reduced and extinguished more time and money can be spent on provided other health services for UK residents. (2)

Is a Smokefree Future a Global Possibility?

Some countries have moved to increase the minimum age it is legal to buy tobacco products to 21. The United States of America, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Singapore all have a ban on selling tobacco products to under 21-year-old citizens and the trend is likely that this age limits may be increased further over the coming years. (2)

Mexico has wide bans of the location of smoking in public places and Portugal is aiming to be smoke free by 2040. (7)

Malaysia introduced a bill in June 2023 that would prohibit smoking for anyone born on or after 1 January 2007.

New Zealand was the first country to propose the introduction of a legal restriction on the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 1 January 2009 but the BBC reported recently that the scheme has now been scrapped.  (2) (6)

See our next article for more details of how the UK could lead the way by introducing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Tobacco and Vapes Bill which has been approved this week in the House of Commons and is due to become law after it has been approved by the House of Lords in June 2024.

  (1) ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins MP, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Gov.UK official UK government website, 20 April 2024 ‘Smokefree generation one step closer as bill introduced’ Department of Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins (2) ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Gov.UK official UK government website, 8 November 2023 ‘Stopping from the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation’ Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, Gov.UK (3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website, August 2023 (3) ‘Public support for government action on tobacco in Great Britain’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website (4) Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England, 25 April 2024 Vaping – KS3 form time activities, Public Health England (5) ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre, DHSC Media Team, 15 April 2024 ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping: what you need to know’ Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre (6) ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News, 20 March 2024 ‘UK smoking ban for those born after 2009 starts journey into law’ Brian Wheeler, Political Reporter, BBC News (7) ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 16 April 2024 ‘What is Rishi Sunak’s anti-smoking bill and will it pass?’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian (8) ‘Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, 16 April 2024 ‘Chris Whitty urges MPs to ignore lobbying and pass smoking ban bill’ Andrew Gregory and Ben Quinn, The Guardian  

Assaulting a Shop Worker Leads to a Standalone Criminal Offence as Pegasus Strides Ahead

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After years of campaigning from supporters of retail employees all across the United Kingdom, today Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched a law to make assaulting a shop worker a standalone criminal offence.

The Westminster based government website stated that: “Perpetrators could be sent to prison for up to six months, receive an unlimited fine and be banned from going back to the shop where they committed their crimes, with Criminal Behaviour Orders barring them visiting specific premises.” (11)

Furthermore “Breaching an order is also a criminal offence and carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. For the most serious cases of assault, such as causing grievous bodily harm with intent, offenders could face a life sentence.” (11)

Home Secretary James Cleverly supports the increased use of facial recognition technology to help catch perpetrators and prevent shoplifting in the first place. The official statement explained how “Backed by a £55.5m investment over the next four years, the police will be able to further roll this new state of the art technology. This will include £4m (four million pounds) for bespoke mobile units that can be deployed to high streets across the country with live facial recognition used in crowded areas to identify people wanted by the police – including repeat shoplifters.” (11)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his team support the Pegasus initiative to use private business collaboration to tackle retail crime which is on the rise In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Business and police strategic partnership launches Pegasus to tackle organised retail crime in UK

The UK’s Policing Minister Chris Phip and Home Office, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and several high street retailers have teamed up to create a new partnership called Pegasus to help tackle serious organised retail crime.

The initiative launched in October 2023 brings together Aldi, B&Q, Boots, Co-op, John Lewis Partnership, Lidl, M&S, Mitie Security (providing secretariat for Pegasus), Morrisons, NBCS (National Business Crime Solution), Next, Primark, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and TJX (who owns TK Maxx stores).

North Wales Police Chief Amanda Blakeman heads up a police team of specialist officers entitled OPAL who oversee serious national organised acquisitive crime. The OPAL team will work on the Pegasus initiative which aims to provide communication and intelligence on criminals and also develop prevention processes and effective enforcement action.

“Retailers will agree ways to capture information that can be shared and analysed to create intelligence packages for police forces to target and track perpetrators.” stated Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

Through the Pegasus collaboration “We continue to target those prolific and habitual offenders whose behaviour causes misery and takes profit from our communities and retailers. Local police forces assess each report through a threat, harm and risk model to determine their police response and will deploy resources where they can be most effective in catching offenders and keeping people safe.” explained Amanda Blakeman North Wales Police Chief Constable.

Better communication between retailers, security forces and the police will undoubtedly make an impact on reducing the rising retail crime levels experienced by shops and their customer service teams. Reducing stock loss from stolen goods will save consumers money in future seasons.

Will Pegasus work?

In the United Kingdom it is important to consider taking a holistic view of solving unwanted property crime problems in the community, on a national scale. It makes sense to prevent shoplifting as much as possible and when it does occur, responding swiftly and proportionality is key. Ensuring that there are consequences which are severe enough to both deter future criminal activity and protect retail workers and members of the public is an essential and logical way forward.

There are many social factors that contribute to men and women becoming dishonest shoppers. The reality is that shoplifting is often a symptom of other aspects of society that are not functioning well. Most people choose a crime free life if they have what they need to live well, then there is no incentive to break the law.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we need to ensure that families are adequately supported with healthcare and local resources so child poverty, neglect and deprivation is a thing of the past. Youth clubs, theatres and sports facilities play an important role in constructively occupying free time for teenagers and it is important to look at funding these beneficial centres properly. The impact of ‘austerity’ and other recent crisis where council cutbacks have cut services has diminished positive social and creative opportunities for many young people.

That is not to say that young people are responsible for shoplifting problems but every adult who turns to crime for whatever reason was a young person originally. If we can help our citizens stay on healthy pathways, they will become law abiding and accomplished adults who give to the community rather than take from their fellow consumers and shopkeepers.

If good quality basic and further education is free and there are appropriate training opportunities for everyone, young men and women can choose suitable and decent employment and enjoy the benefits it brings.

The National Health Service is an outstanding institution in many ways and is full of amazing people much like the UK police force. We need to provide better mental health support that includes everyone in society. Anyone with addiction problems need to be able to receive the right help and guidance. This will help to reduce the number of incidences of petty crime in our businesses.

In order to eliminate the need for people living in England, Wales and other places in the UK to feel the desire to leave stores without paying for goods, we need a high standard of living for everyone. We need political policies to deliver policies that reduce poverty. All citizens need to have access to adequate social services help, which is properly funded.

Providing more affordable housing all across the country for people of all ages is key. Everyone needs to be able to buy basic living essentials without worrying about their grocery or household bills. When Great Britain and Northern Ireland can achieve this goal, we will see shoplifting become a very rare occurrence.

Pegasus in Greek mythology is depicted as a winged white stallion horse symbolising transformation and freedom. We hope that the Pegasus partnership provides opportunities to successfully unify against thieves who cost the hundreds of thousands of professionals who work in both high street and out of town businesses, a lot of time, money and stress.

Investing tax payers millions in big brother technology can lead to crime problems just relocating to an area wherever the security presence and CCTV surveillance is most ineffective. Facial recognition could be interpreted as an invasion of privacy by law abiding citizens who are then paying over again in a variety of ways including putting an expensive ‘digital sticking plaster’ on deeper societal problems. We need to ask ourselves what kind of culture and community do we want to be?

Unless we invest in ways to raise the standard of living for all individuals living in the British Isles, we could find that however senior and sophisticated the latest government endorsed ‘combined shop manager and police officer strategy’ that is proposed, it is ultimately like recovering a stolen needle in a haystack or worse, as effective as shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

Time will tell whether this retail network collaboration and all the technology that can be brought into crime prevention finally turns the tables on shoplifting in the UK. As enthusiastic English consumers with a retail background and a modest spending budget, we really hope Pegasus is a winner.

(1) ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian, 25 Jan 2024 Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian (2) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News, 19 October 2023 (2) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News (3) ‘Co-op stores take £33m hit in just six months as shoplifting cases surge’ Connor Sephton, business reporter, Sky News, 21 September 2023 ‘Co-op stores take £33m hit in just six months as shoplifting cases surge’ Connor Sephton, business reporter, Sky News (4) ‘Alarming 25% increase in shoplifting across England and Wales – USDAW calls for retail crime to be taken seriously’ USDAW shopworkers trade union, 19 October 2023 ‘Alarming 25% increase in shoplifting across England and Wales – USDAW calls for retail crime to be taken seriously’ USDAW shopworkers trade union (5) ‘Police release CCTV footage following two shoplifting incidents in Eastleigh (Hampshire) Sophie Lewis, The News (Portsmouth) 3 March 2024 (5) ‘Police release CCTV footage following two shoplifting incidents in Eastleigh (Hampshire) Sophie Lewis, The News (Portsmouth) (6) ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics, 25 January 2024 ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics, 25 January 2024 (7) The Met, BBC iplayer series 4 Documentary, 21 March 2024 The Met, BBC iplayer series 4 Documentary (8) ‘Thousands of UK police working away from frontline crime amid funding crisis’ Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, 5 January 2024 ‘Thousands of UK police working away from frontline crime amid funding crisis’ Vikram Dodd, The Guardian (9) ‘Pegasus’ Combining law enforcement with industry knowledge to tackle serious organised retail crime’ Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner website, 23 October 2023 ‘Pegasus’ Combining law enforcement with industry knowledge to tackle serious organised retail crime’ Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (10) ‘General Elections’ UK Parliament website, 22 March 2024 ‘General Elections’ UK Parliament (11) ‘Prime Minister launches retail crime crackdown’ UK Government official website, 10 April 2024 ‘Prime Minister launches retail crime crackdown’ UK Government

UK Retail Workers Deserve a Safe Place to Earn a Living

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Companies opening their doors to sell goods to the public need to create a safe and positive place to work for all their employees.

Retail assistants often earn a minimum wage and often work unsociable hours and many have to travel at night or in the early hours of the morning. Shopkeepers and their support teams were brave and hardworking during uncertain times and kept the country going during the recent pandemic.

The conscientious retail key workers opened their supermarkets and boutique shutters and personally delivered supplies to householders staying inside throughout the covid lockdowns and beyond, when many millions of citizens stayed at home to avoid getting sick.

At HotEnough.com we know of one person (who wishes to remain anonymous) who resigned from their sales assistant position with a well-known local village store chain in Hampshire, after taking time off work, due to being physically assaulted by a shoplifter. The thief became aggressive when asked to leave the community supermarket after the ‘customer’ had repeatedly helped themselves to the shop’s shelves without any intention of paying.

An experience like this can leave the most confident employee understandably traumatised and unwilling to put themselves back into that work environment, without the proper support of their managers and also effective ongoing safety measures.

A manager at a discount grocery retailer in Sussex who doesn’t wish to be named told us at HotEnough.com that “The police don’t always attend when we contact them, as they are often too busy, as they (members of the police services) are overstretched.”

The same grocery store manager described how recently shoplifters tried to press charges against his staff member, after an angry scuffle incident occurred between an employee and a shoplifter. The store assistant had become frustrated at the high level of alcohol theft stock loss, which was an illegal activity that had been replicated by the gang over a few weeks.

The store assistant had tried to personally stop the group of regular thieves from clearing the shelves of luxury liquor, resulting in an angry and aggressive situation. During the scuffle the store assistant was physically hurt (but luckily not severely). Outrageously the store assistant was then falsely accused of physically assaulting the shoplifter. This incident occurred in an expensive and desirable area of Sussex which is usually extremely peaceful. This crime shows how shoplifting is a problem that is found right across the country.

“Theft offences increased by 9% to 1.8 million offences compared with the previous year.” This statistic “included a 32% increase in shoplifting offences.” Reported Pete Jones on behalf of the Office for National Statistics at the end of January this year. (1)

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) is the UK based shopworkers workers union with over 350,000 members. USDAW think the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) shoplifting figures are “alarming” and they are “deeply concerned”. (2)

A USDAW statement reads: “Our annual survey found that three-quarters of retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Theft from shops and armed robbery were triggers for a third of these incidents. Particularly concerning is that just over half of those who did the survey said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.” (2)

Police services to tackle shoplifting are under pressure financially

Police resources are more stretched than ever as their central government budgets are cut in real terms due to inflation and other economic factors in many areas. Many local councils in England (such as councils in Hampshire and Sussex) are increasing council tax to be able to afford to maintain essential services, including employing more police officers in certain areas.

However, as there are many experienced officers who are of retirement age and therefore simultaneously leaving the police service, so it is currently hugely challenging to lead police forces in the UK and achieve all of the set targets. Brave and talented men and women in the UK’s police force do an amazing job helping the public keep safe and gain access to specific crime support services whenever they are needed.

In an interview with The Guardian this January “Gavin Stephens, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said police were cutting crime but faced severe funding pressures and a £3.2bn cash shortfall.” Dodd explains that in 2010 austerity a reduction in 20,000 police officers and a change in the demands of policing in a digital age has meant enormous pressure on services despite in recent years an increase in recruitment into the force and a long overdue 7% pay rise. (3)

This fantastic work that the UK police force carry out consistently serving the public can be seen in the statistical reductions in ‘total crime’ in the UK this year down 17% compared with the same period in 2020. This is despite police officers often covering for other social and healthcare services which have diminished or disappeared because of local and government funding issues. (1)

It is worth considering that there will be many, possibly hundreds or thousands, of unreported crimes and shoplifting incidents that go unreported each year. Retail managers and members of the public that become the victims of shoplifting criminals sometimes do not wish, for a variety of reasons (including believing that the police will not be able or willing to personally respond) to choose to involve the police services and pursue justice.

Nationally the police are striving to cover many urgent matters in order to protect the public in the communities up and down the country 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Police services are not always able to attend shoplifting incidents and sadly police supervisors are not always able to see retail stock loss (and protecting retail employees from abuse) as a priority in these difficult times.

Simultaneously the courts have been catching up after the challenges of lockdowns and covid regulations. Consequently, the underfunded prison system is under more pressure than ever. Convicting and jailing folk who commit property fraud, in whatever way, is not a priority government focus at this time. People who are intent on stealing clearly know that this is the situation and that they can more easily exploit the system for their own personal gain.

The Guardian highlights how Alex Chalk “set out measures for criminals facing jail sentences of under 12 months to receive suspended sentences and community service, with shoplifters one of the groups of offenders expected to benefit most from the change.”

New solutions are possible to deter shoplifting

CCTV technology has been employed by well-established retailers such as Marks and Spencer for decades and is a very effective tool in providing evidence to gain a shoplifting conviction in court. The Metropolitan Police have a very sophisticated system for tracking criminals using London’s city streets and businesses CCTV network.

The Met are also using “facial recognition technology to target London’s most prolific offenders.” according to Sky News and the recent BBC documentaries on the brilliant work of the Metropolitan Police also demonstrate how clever officers utilise the latest technology in order to catch and prosecute criminals. (4) (5)

More resources will enable forces to tackle more crime in regional town centres and out of town malls. Many councils have increased council tax to the maximum this year and in some areas like Hampshire this allows them to employ another 50 police officers this season (although it was not clear in this figure how many in the force had left or retired this year.)

Shoplifting union USDAW supports a House of Commons petition that “seeks to protect retail workers from violence, threats and abuse by extending the Scottish protection of workers law to the rest of the UK.”  (2)

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) outlines how during this election year in England that Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper committed the next Labour Government to: “13,000 more neighbourhood police with guaranteed patrols in town centres; Respect Orders to ban repeat offenders from town centres; a standalone offence for assaulting a worker serving the public and (we) will end the £200 threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft.” (2)

Whether Labour’s strategy can be delivered depends on who wins the election and what central government finances are actually available and allocated in practice. If Labour succeeds in becoming elected (or another alternative to the current Conservative party are elected) they may seek to reintroduce a law to give retail workers more protection from criminals.

A private members’ bill that was proposed by Alex Norris representing Labour for Nottingham North in 2020 which aimed to “make certain offences, including malicious wounding, grievous or actual bodily harm and common assault, aggravated when perpetrated against a retail worker in the course of their employment; to make provision about the sentencing of persons convicted of such aggravated offences; and for connected purposes.”

The private members bill designed to increase protection through increased penalties for abusing retail workers did not progress to a second reading in the House of Commons and was effectively ‘dropped’ by the Conservative UK government. No alternative legislative solution, apart from working closely with corporations to find ways of reducing shoplifting and retail crime, has been suggested by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his team at present.

We hope that the conservative’s policy of encouraging retail collaboration whilst also trying to maintain police services on a budget will be enough to significantly improve the working environment of millions of shop workers.

(1) ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics, 25 January 2024 ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics (2) ‘Alarming 25% increase in shoplifting across England and Wales – USDAW calls for retail crime to be taken seriously’ Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) shopworkers trade union, 19 October 2023 ‘Alarming 25% increase in shoplifting across England and Wales – USDAW calls for retail crime to be taken seriously’ (3) ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian, 25 Jan 2024 (3) ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian (4) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News, 19 October 2023 (4) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News (5) The Met, BBC iplayer (series 4) Documentary, 21 March 2024 The Met, BBC iplayer (series 4) Documentary (6) ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian, 25 Jan 2024 ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian (7) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News, 19 October 2023 (7) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News

Shoplifting Update: 400,000 Incidents a Year in England and Wales is Taking the Biscuit

This year the number of shoplifting offenses recorded by police “has exceeded 400,000” incidents “for the first time since 2002 when records began.” (1)

Who are individual shoplifters?

Men, women and children from any walk of life may take items from a shop and deliberately leave the premises without paying for the item or basket, for a variety of reasons. The reasons for shoplifting are varied and sometimes complex and there are different types of shoplifting.

Recently retail managers across the country report that people want to own or use the products displayed for sale in their local stores and they cannot afford to buy them with cash or card themselves. It is then that sometimes individuals make the bad decision to intentionally steal the shopping instead.

We talked with a security guard in a large traditional supermarket in the borough of Havant in Hampshire that has had a least one shoplifting incident during the last month. We have personally witnessed the professional staff calmly dealing with the shoplifting incident. The security guard told us that “I think cost of living crisis is to mostly to blame, London is worse than Hampshire but it’s a problem all over (England).”

The Guardian also explains that the cost-of-living crisis is one of the biggest driving forces in the change of behaviour in society. (1)

Another aspect leading to the rise in shoplifting is because men and women with addiction problems can be motivated to walk out of any store with stock that they do not pay for but want to sell on, in order to fund their expensive additions. Alcoholism and drug addiction are the most common causes of this type of shoplifting.

They make the morally wrong decision to help themselves, in the hope that they will not get caught by retail security assistants.

In addition, people dealing with mental health problems (who may or may not also have addiction issues) may be motivated to pocket or put into their own shopping bags some specific products or groceries in the full knowledge that it is wrong to then deliberately leave a store without paying.

Who are professional shoplifters?

Professional shoplifters are usually working in teams and they usually have a premeditated system of removing baskets or rails of products from specifically selected stores which is often well planned and coordinated by a criminal gang in advance. The Guardian quotes Sharon White (Retail giant John Lewis CEO until this year) describing “shoplifting to order”. (1)

These large-scale organised attacks on an outlets latest stock displays can significantly affect a retailer’s profit margin for that section of the store for that month or season. This is in addition to the stress and shock that retail assistants may experience dealing with a surprise mob handed invasion into their public workplace.

What is internal theft?

Internal theft is when employees take stock or money from a business that they work for. This is not the same as shoplifting by the public, although it does financially harm a business.  Companies have many systems in place to detect and limit internal theft as it can be very damaging to a company and its culture.

At Hotenough.com we have personally worked with retail businesses who have fired both male and female full-time employees for taking stock (and selling it on eBay) and ‘having their fingers in the till. It is never ever right to steal. However, it is particularly sad when the motivation to take from their employer is explained by the desire to top up their low wages, pay for the basic bills and housing and attempt to achieve a basic standard of modern family living.

Retail assistants work long hours over seven days a week and see the customers in their store appear to enjoy a good standard of living effortlessly, with money left over to spend on some extra luxuries. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of workers can then be tempted into becoming dishonest employees by stealing from their employer.

What do companies do to prevent shoplifting?

Increasingly sophisticated techniques are employed by retailers to make it difficult for would be thieves to leave a shop without paying for items in their bags, prams, trolleys or about their person. Initial staff training is combined with the latest in Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) that can film thieves as they take things and leave a store without paying. This can then provide evidence in prosecuting those who break the law.

Security tagging items on everything from vitamins and baby food, designer suits and the latest gadgets can help to alert employees to things that go out of the door which are not paid for. Most retailers are looking to save on personnel costs as they try and bounce back after covid lockdowns and energy hikes affecting their bottom lines. Providing enough staff to consistently oversee all shoppers in a large display area is financially difficult for many supermarkets and boutiques to accomplish at all times, during their long opening hours.

Deceptive and quick fingered shoplifters often take advantage of an ‘empty showroom’ situation. If thieves are working in teams, they can use simple distraction techniques to take a shop team member’s eye of the sales floor for long enough to quickly and slyly remove many costly treats from the shop selling floor.

There are some practical actions that retailers can take in the way they design their stores and stack their produce and luxury goods that makes it more difficult for shoplifters to find cosy spots to take stock unseen. For example: arranging garment hangers to make it more difficult for bad actors to swoop in and grab an armful of the latest garments, can be time well spent by clever visual merchandisers.

Great communication between the police, high street security teams and shop keepers in a local area can make a real difference and deters would be gangs and repeated offenders from bothering to try to go shopping without paying in that locality. Formally banning specific unwanted customers with legal letters is a good way of minimising ongoing problems. These nationwide store bans can work well for deterring some persistent shoplifters from opportunistic stealing.

Why does shoplifting matter?

“British Retail Consortium estimates that retail crime costs businesses £1.7 billion last year.” (1)

Every resident in England and Wales unintentionally pays a premium on their everyday shopping to absorb the cost of stolen stock loss. Each item taken without permission has to be accounted for and factored into the profit and loss figures for the business’s financial year.

The retail selling prices that the shops sell their wares for now and in the next financial quarter need to include extra fees to cover the cost price of purchasing more stock to replace the pieces that are stolen. In addition, the extra money needed for providing a premises and/or warehouse facility (which includes government taxes like ‘rates’) for selling any merchandise that does go missing through the act of shoplifting, has to be accounted for in the expense section of an organisation’s financial figures.

Physical stock loss due to theft affects every business that has commercial displays where the customer hand selects the things they wish to purchase in any public supermarket or boutique. The Guardian have reported that the Co-op admitted that police only attended about two in every ten incidents of shoplifting. Shoplifting incidents are not isolated cases that happen rarely. The Co-op stated that its food business lost £33 million in the first six months of 2023. (2)

Sky news reported warnings from retail executives in October 2023 that “shop looting perpetuated by prolific offenders and organised criminal gangs “is becoming genuinely one of the most significant issues facing UK communities”. (3)

At the end of this year the United Kingdom will vote in the upcoming General Election to decide which party they would like to be in power for the next five years. Reducing crime and delivering justice is bound to be an important issue for citizens to consider, as they choose which party is in charge next year.

Voters will decide which politicians they think will be able to create an action plan, fund and lead the criminal justice system and police forces to be able to reduce shoplifting and crime experienced by shop workers and customers. Shoplifting is a problem that increases costs for everyone during an ongoing cost of living crisis and it is time that social and security services, financial resources and technology are adequately allocated in order to irradicate this unwanted criminal activity currently imbedded in our communities. (4)

Coming soon: more HotEnough.com articles about UK retail crime and what can be done about it this season.   (1) ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian, 25 Jan 2024 ‘Shoplifting rate in England and Wales hits highest level in more than 20 years.’ Jack Simpson, The Guardian (2) ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News, 19 October 2023 ‘Shoplifting up 25% in the past year’ Henry Vaughan, Sky News (3) ‘Co-op stores take £33m hit in just six months as shoplifting cases surge’ Connor Sephton, business reporter, Sky News, 21 September 2023 ‘Co-op stores take £33m hit in just six months as shoplifting cases surge’ Connor Sephton, business reporter, Sky News (4) ‘General Elections’ UK Parliament website, 22 March 2024 General Elections’ UK Parliament website (5) ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics, 25 January 2024 (6) ‘Crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2023’ Office for National Statistics

New Security Systems to Prevent Scams and Fraud on Facebook Marketplace are Essential

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Facebook Marketplace can do more to prevent fraud

Facebook Marketplace is meant to be a local ‘neighbour to neighbour’ site. This sales system is created in a similar vein to the local newspaper advertising concept, which has been so popular all over the western world, before online social media existed. (1)

Therefore, commercial sellers i.e. individuals selling multiple expensive items like cars, are not suitable for this platform. It would be easy for Facebook Marketplace to identify an account with numerous expensive and similar items for sale and ‘pause’ any selling activity.

It is a simple business development task to program Facebook Marketplace (or any other online selling platform) to require additional financial verification for certain accounts. This could apply to any commercial sellers or accounts selling multiple products, to further protect ordinary domestic account users who want to trade personal items, in the traditional way.

It is very possible for Facebook Marketplace to delete many thousands of untrustworthy seller’s accounts on their site. Programming extra security code into the process of serving Facebook Marketplace content will help to eradicate a situation whereby an unsuspecting UK resident becomes a victim of ‘phishing’ or some other financial trickery. Phishing is when an honest person gives away their banking details or downloads a virus onto their computer, unintentionally.

Age controls, such as introducing an initial government identity (ID) sign in feature, can automatically check if a user’s age meets the criteria for an online sales platform. This additional security method could be a way of preventing vulnerable young people being victims of fraud unnecessarily.

It would not be difficult to install an initial ID government sign in step. It could be rolled out across the whole selling website and would only take experienced programmers a few days to set up. More official government legal regulation is needed to support parental controls and ensure minors are not able to be unwittingly financially manipulated by scammers online. Age controls are already normal practice for signing into many online organisations in several countries in Europe, such as Denmark.

Facebook Marketplace is owned by Meta and they could afford to introduce an identity checked secure payment system for buyers and sellers to work alongside their e-commerce trading website. They already have a payment system now called Meta Pay (which used to be called Facebook Pay) which also covers payments on Instagram and Messenger (a system within Facebook which is like direct email). Given the current level of scams advertised on the platforms at present, many folks will be understandably hesitant to upload their banking details to Facebook. (2)

Facebook Marketplace can make more systems to prevent scams and fraud

Facebook Marketplace and other online trading platforms such as eBay, Etsy, Folksy, NotOnTheHighStreet, Vinted and Amazon are a big part of retail sales in the UK. Undoubtedly, they are here to stay in our modern cultural life. It is wise to listen and look out in the press for new schemes and scams that can ruin an otherwise modern, fun, efficient and often worthwhile way of shopping in our busy daily lives.

Facebook Marketplace can absolutely afford the time and resources to do more to prevent fraud on their platform now. Politicians need to put pressure on law makers to encourage legislation to ensure there are more security checks on the site to rid Facebook Marketplace of fraudsters and introduce more protection for innocent consumers across the United Kingdom and beyond, who are unwittingly becoming victims of these greedy and wicked scammers.

Rules to prevent digital giants exploiting unfair market advantage when advertising products will help Facebook Marketplace users avoid scams

In November 2023 the Competition and Markets Authority introduced legislative guidelines to ensure that “Meta will no longer be able to use certain data obtained from competing businesses that advertise on its platforms to gain an unfair advantage.” This means that Meta cannot use marketing data obtained from businesses using its advertising services. This is important as the CMA states that Meta has 10 million advertisers, with a revenue estimated at £4-5 billion in 2021. (3)

Amazon and Meta have both committed to follow the CMA’s monitoring guidelines to ensure competition works effectively in the digital sector across the United Kingdom. (3)

This means that Facebook customers have the option to ‘opt-out’ of Facebook Marketplace using their advertisement interaction data to then automatically show them relevant products and services in the future. This is one easy way that everyone who is concerned about their privacy and security online can limit unwanted business marketing appearing on their feeds and account pages. The ‘Accounts Centre’ in Facebook has an ‘Ad Preferences’ section that gives users to choose to review their settings for receiving information from advertisers across their social media platforms. (4)

The online technology magazine ‘digital trends’ recommends following this process: Click on the dots on the top right-hand side of every unwanted advertisement that pops up on your feed. Select ‘hide all ads from this advertiser’ from the ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ within the ‘Options’ menu that appears. (5)

We approached Facebook Marketplace for their comments about how they are tackling governing bodies in Western countries are struggling to catch up with the massive changes in the way we work, live, play and shop in the digital age. We expect to see more direction and intervention from governments and their appointed organisations as political leaders strive to balance the power that the Tech Giants have successfully amassed, with the needs of protecting a diverse community.

Online platforms can be tremendous communication engines that can achieve wonderful connections and do good deeds. At the same time society also needs more safeguards in place to guard members or the public from the unsafe disadvantages and pitfalls involved with combining social media, virtual strangers and monetary exchanges.

See our previous article about the potential pitfalls of online trading platforms like Facebook Marketplace, tips to avoid any problems and how Facebook Marketplace Can Do More To Prevent Scams and Fraud on their popular website.

  (1) ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace official website, 23 February 2024 https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/learn-more/ (2) ‘Meta Pay’ Facebook.com Help Pages, 23 February 2024 ‘Meta Pay’ Facebook.com Help Pages (3) ‘CMA protects competition by curbing Meta’s use of ad customers’ data, Gov.UK, Competition and Markets Authority, 3 November 2023 ‘CMA protects competition by curbing Meta’s use of ad customers’ data, Gov.UK, Competition and Markets Authority (4) ‘How can we help you?’ Facebook.com Help Centre, 23 February 2024 ‘How can we help you?’ Facebook.com Help Centre (5) ‘How to opt out of targeted ads on Facebook’ Alina Bradford, 11 July 2019 ‘How to opt out of targeted ads on Facebook’ Alina Bradford HotEnough.com Ref: A209AHV8

Facebook Marketplace: How Meta Can Do More to Prevent Scams and Fraud.

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What is Facebook Marketplace?

Facebook Marketplace is an online trading website where Facebook members can trade new and second-hand items. Facebook Marketplace has “over one billion shoppers per month” according to The Times (1) Facebook Marketplace is owned by Meta Platforms who also own several other social media companies including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The e-commerce platform “connects sellers and buyers through meaningful interactions and unique goods” say the company who are competing with other established classified advertising sites like eBay and Craigslist. (2)

Keep Facebook Marketplace purchases simple and affordable just in case

If you are new to using Facebook Marketplace or any other online selling platform it is advisable to make relatively small purchases, compared to your overall monthly budget, in order to manage any risk in inadvertently entering into a significantly dodgy deal. If you are selling things you own, it is preferable to meet unknown buyers outside your home, or in a public place.

It is a good idea to arrange to physically try out any object or piece of equipment you intend to buy, to make sure it is good working order. Check it looks exactly as you imagine and performs as you expect it to, before handing out any hard-earned cash. (3)

Users can usually avoid fraudsters by being tech savvy and using common sense

Several of the aforementioned scams are also common on other sites and apps in 2024. It is not just Facebook Marketplace that is affected by fraudsters and thieves. However, the advice is ‘buyer beware’ and check everything out carefully. If something looks too good to be true it probably is.

Taking a friend to personally visit properties advertised online is advisable especially for women (who are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault in the UK). (4)  It is prudent to avoid spending any money if you are tired or if you have had a drink or two, as online fraud is increasingly sophisticated.

Monitoring young people’s purchases on Facebook Marketplace with a caring oversight is worthwhile. It is also wise to support older folk, who may be easy prey to technologically savvy deceptive actors online, as many seniors did not embrace the digital era until relatively late in their lives.

When shopping online and on Facebook Marketplace using a credit card can offer some protection on faulty items, or in the case of if a purchase is not received as expected. Using PayPal for online purchases can offer extra protection as well as obscuring your banking details as this ‘third party’ payment gateway can get involved to help resolve the issue if there are any problems.

Josh Kirby at The Times Money Mentor suggests that PayPal might be able to refund a payment if the item is not received satisfactorily, especially if the product purchased is described specifically in the ‘Goods and Services’ function of PayPal’s website. (1)

If the worst should happen Facebook Marketplace do offer the facility of reporting any suspected scams in a section called ‘more options’ (see top right once in your account) but it is better to proceed on the side of caution in the first place. Never be rushed into paying for a product as this is a technique often used by those who want to stress innocent internet users into making an expensive mistake online.

Potential Pitfalls of Facebook Marketplace: Financial Scams

Unfortunately, there are also negative aspects to buying on Facebook Marketplace. The Times lists fake payment confirmations, counterfeit currency and rental scams as the top three methods of committing fraud which leads to the financial detriment of genuine Facebook users. (1)

“The drawback is that there isn’t a built-in payment feature, so it’s down to you to arrange payment or meet up in person.” states UK based Which magazine. (5)

Fake payment confirmations can mean a situation where scammers pretend, they have paid you for items that you have given them, when in fact they have not paid at all. They might use fake branded graphic images to convince you that they have paid in full using a well-known payment transfer service, when this is actually a lie.

There are several ‘varieties on a theme’ of delivery scam. A frequent delivery scam can occur when an unexpecting consumer may be duped into paying freight or courier charges, in order to deliver a tempting but fictional advertised purchase (such as a second-hand car) that will then never arrive.

Always check a car’s registration details with an online vehicle history report check, before you commit to anything. See the advice from the UK governments website (link below) on how to ‘buy and sell a vehicle’ in a hassle-free way. (6)

Genuine Facebook users accounts can be hacked in order to provide a legitimate looking profile, to advertise a distrustful seller’s wares. It is smart to be suspicious of any accounts that look like individuals that are currently selling dozens of expensive items, such as automobiles.

We found that there were sellers are selling 40 or more cars that are obviously priced ‘too cheap’ on one individual Facebook Marketplace account. It is an easy fix for Facebook Marketplace’s algorithms to pick up and then flag these dodgy traders, that are posing as legitimate members of the public, as possibly fraudulent offers.

It would take a capable programmer a minute or two (and one or two lines of code) to make a system that marks an account as ‘likely fraudulent’ and suspend the questionable adverts, pending an investigation by a member of Facebook Marketplace staff, to manually check if it actually is a in fact a genuine seller on not.

Facebook Marketplace is designed for members of the public in a community to privately trade with each other in good faith. Therefore, if posts look like a commercial scale showroom, it should send warning signals into the minds of any law-abiding citizen, that they need to proceed with caution.

It is always sensible to follow a selling website’s guidelines. Staying within the apps messaging service (instead of corresponding with direct personal emails) for example is intelligent, as this request can help to flag up warning signs of a rogue seller who is trying to break the rules, for their own illicit monetary gain.

Any sensitive personal information such as contact information can be used to try and obtain credit (or another type of benefit) by untrustworthy sellers. Extra caution when sharing private details is needed when corresponding on Facebook Marketplace or any other website.

Gift card scams involve a residential customer being asked to purchase gift cards to pay for a variety of online items. The untrustworthy sellers ask the buyer to transfer the numeric reference details of one or more genuine voucher plastic store cards. If someone asks to be paid in gift cards, it is a scam!

‘See it to believe it’ and prevent fraud when shopping online

Scammers may turn up at your house or place of work and try to pay for products you have advertised on Facebook Marketplace using fake or counterfeit money. Always check cash carefully. The Bank of England has issued an excellent leaflet that can help anyone easily check that cash notes are definitely issued by the English Bank, using the security features that are pre-designed into each note. (7)

Verifying any accommodation in person is absolutely crucial. This is because rental scams are common on Facebook Marketplace. It is easily misleading when criminals create sophisticated and inviting posts about accommodation that appears available, complete with attractive accompanying images.

Shockingly, often rental properties posted on Facebook Marketplace are just imitations of previously let flats and houses and the fraudsters are just after your deposit transfer.  Any digital payments made in advance will then not be returned, when you then discover the awful truth about the non-existent home.

The UK government has a service called RentProfile that uses Land Registry data to check that landlords actually own property they are renting out, which helps detect rental fraud. (8)

Potential Pitfalls of Facebook Marketplace: Poor Quality or Dangerous Products

Stolen and fake goods and any products that do not meet the Trading Standards requirements can often be sold on Facebook Marketplace and other online marketplaces too. It is particularly important to consider any potential health or safety problems, such as a fire risk, that can be associated with buying items with poor manufacturing quality. The Trading Standards website is a good place to read and obtain more information about consumer rights and this official site has a postcode business checker feature too.  (9) (10)

We approached Facebook Marketplace for their comments about how they are tackling swindling merchants and cheating traders posing as honest citizens. At the time of the publication of this article we have not received a response. See our next article for more details of how New Security Systems to Prevent Scams and Fraud on Facebook Marketplace are Essential

  (1) ‘Seven Facebook marketplace scams to watch out for’ Josh Kirby, Chief Writer, The Times Money Mentor, 12 January 2024 ‘Seven Facebook marketplace scams to watch out for’ Josh Kirby, The Times Money Mentor (2) ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace official website, 23 February 2024 ‘Discover, buy and sell goods with Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Marketplace (3) ‘Buy and sell responsibly on Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Help Centre, 23 February 2024 ‘Buy and sell responsibly on Facebook Marketplace’ Facebook Help Centre (4) ‘Sexual offences in England and Wales overview: year ending March 2022’ Office for National Statistics, 23 March 2023 ‘Sexual offences in England and Wales overview: year ending March 2022’ Office for National Statistics (5) ‘What are my rights if I buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace?’ Hannah Downes, Which? Online consumer magazine UK, 26 September 2023 ‘What are my rights if I buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace?’ Hannah Downes, Which? (6) ‘Buy, sell or scrap a vehicle’ Gov. UK, UK Government official website, 19 February 2024 Buy, sell or scrap a vehicle’ Gov. UK (7) ‘How to check your banknotes’ Bank of England, PDF online leaflet, 23 February 2024 ‘How to check your banknotes’ Bank of England (8) ‘Landlord checks by RentProfile help prevent rental fraud’ HM Land Registry, 12 January 2017 ‘Landlord checks by RentProfile help prevent rental fraud’ HM Land Registry (9) ‘Online and distance selling’ Gov.UK, Trading Standards UK Government advice, 23 February 2024 ‘Online and distance selling’ Gov.UK, Trading Standards UK Government advice (10) ‘Looking for Consumer Help and Advice?’ Chartered Trading Standards Institute, 23 February 2024 ‘Looking for Consumer Help and Advice?’ Chartered Trading Standards Institute HotEnough.com ref: A208AHV20   Hotenough.com article ref: HE209AHV5

What are 3D printers and why would you want one in your home?

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What are 3D printers?

3D printers are a piece of technological equipment that can print three-dimensional objects. There are several suppliers that manufacture 3D printing products for home use. 3D printers are usually about the size of a traditional 2D paper printer and are designed to sit on top of a table or workbench. Larger printers for commercial use are also common.

Bambu Lab 3D printer printed colour filament 'poop shoot' Photo by A. Howse
Bambu Lab 3D printer printed colour filament ‘poop shoot’
Photo by A. Howse

Which types of 3D printers are available?

Most common type of 3D printers are the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) types. FDM 3D printers extrude filament onto a bed and build the object as layers. Other types of 3D printers are resin and also metal printers.

Resin printers work by using light at specific light frequency (405Nm) to solidify the resin. Resin printers gives the highest quality results but as it is resin, it has some environmental and toxicity considerations so they are generally only chosen if a custom built studio lab area can be specifically designed to overcome these drawbacks.

Metal printers work by using a laser to heat up a metal powder which then solidify. Metal printers are currently very expensive and cost from £400,000 and upwards so are not usually used in a domestic setting.

How do 3D printers know what to print?

Usually, a design is created by a 3D printer user or designer with specialist Computer Aided Design CAD software on their device or PC. One professional software choice is AutoDesk Fusion 360 or Autodesk also make Tinkercad which is a perfect program for beginners to CAD of all ages. (7) (8)

After the design is created it has to be converted into a language that the 3D printer understands. Software for converting the 3D CAD design into the printer language is called a “slicer”. It basically analyses the 3D object and based on the settings of the software, it will convert the 3D model into a script that the 3D printer can process. It is possible to make a specific design from scratch that will suit almost all requirements.

3D Designs that have already been created are often saved to a design library so other 3D printer users can also use them easily, a bit like making a new sewing pattern and then sharing it online.

The new or the carefully selected pre-existing 3D design is then downloaded to the user’s device. Then the 3D design is then uploaded or ‘sent’ to the 3D printer, usually using internet wi-fi, although some printers will conveniently pass on the digital design information using a computer cable or SD card.

Bambu Lab 3D printed angel tree topperPhoto by A. Howse
Bambu Lab 3D printed angel tree topper
Photo by A. Howse

How do 3D printers work?

The printers use filament which is stored on reels rather like storing old fashioned rope or haberdashery trimmings. Arms or rollers move a print head according to digital instructions received by the unit.

Depending on the type of 3D printer, either the base of the unit stays in situ and the guides and rollers move the printer head as required through the x, y and z axis (horizontal, vertical and the perpendicular orthogonal or depth axis) or the print head stays put in the Y axis and the bed is moved by the machine as required.

The string like filament liquifies when heated by the print head and then the extruded material quickly sets into a solid state again where it is immediately cooled by fans on the print head. The item is printed onto a plate or ‘bed’ of the printer at the base of the printer.

The printed object is created by building up many fine horizontal layers much like a traditional ceramic coil pot or a layer cake. Typically, these layers are 0.2mm high. You can change the “layer height” to get either a faster print and a bit less quality or even a lower resolution, which gives a much finer result but the time it takes will increase accordingly.

The latest 3D printers are able to store different coloured reels in a storage rack usually on top of the printer. This enables multi-coloured prints featuring amazing levels of detail, printed text and decoration.

Commonly used filament such as PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile styrene) is affordable for beginners and available in an impressive array of hues and finishes from most manufacturers and a whole host of 3D printing accessory suppliers.

Why would you want a 3D printer and who are they for?

3D printers can be used to make things at home for personal use such as personalized presents for loved ones. 3D printers are brilliant for fixing and making new parts for broken appliances and creating useful objects for using around the home. 3D printers are ideal for making holiday decorations and crafting accessories. These modern printers are perfect for both hobbyists and engineers and everyone in between.

The process of 3D printing uses a lot of different skills such as creativity and problem solving as well and technical skills and so 3D printers can be a fun way to provide an educational activity for the whole family. Schools, collages and universities often include 3D printing projects into their teaching programs and developing products for 3D printing can be a practical team activity, that helps to develop soft skills such as communication too.

3D printers are very common in industrial and commercial settings and can come in a variety of sizes, scales and types. Larger printers can print using strong metal alloy materials. 3D printers can produce moulds which then can be used to make a range of different products for domestic and commercial use.

Small business owners who are proficient in 3D printing often develop a niche product range of 3D printed products which they can sell online via their own websites and also on larger sites such as eBay or Etsy. Some creatives make things to sell which then can help pay for adding to their studio and updating their range of printers over time.

3D printing is not considered an expensive activity for the hours of fun that can be had creating an unlimited possibility of items, a roll of 3D printer filament is typically 10 Pounds and upwards for 1 Kg. Second hand printers start at around £50 on sites like eBay and the latest 3D printers can be £100 upwards.

However cheaper 3D printers have a tendency to require a lot of tinkering and therefore a lot of time is spent on getting the desired quality of prints. Quality printers usually cost from £400 and upwards. Buying cheap usually means a lot of time (and filament!) is wasted so opting for an inexpensive printer at the start of a new 3D printing hobby is usually a false economy.

One advantage of this type of machine is that many accessories can be printed by the printer itself. Usually there are several clever people who have already created free designs for the most useful printer accessories to help any printer run smoothly and efficiently.

Second hand 'home assembled' 3D printer more than 5 years old.Photo by A. Howse
Second hand ‘home assembled’ 3D printer more than 5 years old.
Photo by A. Howse

What 3D printer to choose for home use in the UK?

The AnkerMake website helpfully suggests considering the following aspects when choosing to buy a 3D printer for general use:

Define your needs, (identify) price range, (determine) build volume, (evaluate) print quality required and (assess) filament compatibility.

Many of the latest 3D printers are available ready to assemble like a piece of Ikea furniture or alternatively they can be pre-built and ready to ‘plug and play’ upon delivery. It is cheaper to build the 3D printer yourself, although, if you are new to this type of printer, it would definitely be worth asking a more experienced friend or professional to help guide you. This ensures you can get up and running without any off-putting teething problems. YouTube is also a good source for information and guides on 3D printing subjects.

The HotEnough.com teams’ recommendation is the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer!

It is wonderful to have a filament station on top of this marvelous enclosed printer which gives the option to enjoy multi-colour prints with filament all neatly organized and ready to go in a specially designed printer station which sits on top of the smart looking silver 3printer cabinet.

“Bambu Lab builds state-of-the-art 3D printers that break the barriers between the digital and physical worlds, bringing creativity to a whole new level. Right now, we have three sites located at Shenzhen and Shanghai in China and Austin, Texas of U.S.” states the Bambu Lab website. (6)

The Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer won Time magazine’s ‘Best Inventions award for 2022 and we can see why. A ‘game changer’ for domestic or community 3D printing, this unit enables a fuss free system that works ‘out of the box’ and minimizes all the troubleshooting, fussing and tinkering often associated with the first generations of 3D printers for home use. (4)

The Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer is not a cheap edition to a home technology collection at around £1300 each. However, the fast and excellent quality colour printing, generally good looks and easy to use interface will enable you to enjoy and explore a world of useful and joyful pieces that can be quickly manufactured to fix and develop household items and create leisure equipment or entertain and amaze your friends.

“Bambu Lab is a consumer tech company focusing on desktop 3D printers. Starting with the X1 series, Bambu Lab builds state-of-the-art 3D printers that break the barriers between the digital and physical worlds, bringing creativity to a whole new level.” (4)

The Bambu Lab 3D printer is also surprisingly quiet and fits in a home interior without any problems. You can also watch what the printer is currently doing on your phone, tablet or PC via an Bambu app interface which allows you to direct the printer’s activities from wherever you are.

Tony Hoffman at PC Magazine independently reviewed the Original Prusa i3MK3S Plus as the best 3D printer for 2024 in his opinion. The Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus is an open framed 3D printer that comes with a user manual and is highly rated for quality with its only disadvantage being the relatively small print bed size for the price of around £800.  (1)

AnkerMake manufacture 3D printers and as well as their own products they recommend Elegoo Neptune 3 Pro printer as a great choice for a quiet printer with a large printing bed size for the option of making larger pieces. (5)

What is the future of 3D printing?

To see the latest in what the 3D printing industry has developed attend the TCT 3Sixty 2024 which is promoted as the UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing event at the NEC in Birmingham on the 5-6th June this year. There are several inspiring talks arranged by the organisers to showcase what major companies are doing with 3D printing technology in the UK this year. (3)

Although PLA is an inert type of plastic filament and is often used for children’s toys, there are concerns about how environmentally friendly the industry is, when producing fresh items using any 3D printer system (rather than printing pieces to mend existing products we already use.)

BambuLab write that they are passionate about the “commitment to creating the next generation of eco-friendly 3D printers – pushing the industry forward toward a future with a much lower carbon-footprint.

3D printers can save energy and therefore carbon emissions by producing prints at home that meet the needs of a consumer without the need for taking a car out for a shopping trip for example.

3D printed healthcare'Scouts Do Things' post July 2020
3D printed healthcare
‘Scouts Do Things’ post July 2020

Over the last decade there have been many medical uses developed for 3D printers. It has been amazing to find out about the custom-made prosthetics and other medical and health support accessories, that can really help people of all ages live better lives. 3D printers were used during the covid19 lockdowns to help make protective visors and more for healthcare workers.

Many wearable technology health gadgets are made using 3D printing techniques and we predict that personalized wearable art and custom-made accessories will continue to expand into all our lives in the future.

Many talented designers have harnessed the power of colour 3D printing to create stunning figures, jewellery, sculptures and home accessories. Some 3D printed products also use other technologies such as ‘raspberry pie’ mini computers and LED lighting to explore what is possible to build using this medium.

We predict that this trend will continue to gain momentum as a generation of young people who have had access to these exciting machines within their educational experience continue to create innovative products and companies. One design limitation for producing 3D printed treasures at home is the size of the print be and the cabinet height of the printer.

Recently some advanced makers have found ways of making expanding forms (like a popular 1980’s classic toy: the slinky) interlocking sections and even weaving fabric squares that can be connected to form larger surfaces or larger objects in the same way that the famous Lego brand bricks can be used in multiple ways to form an endless number of things. So perhaps the only real limitation of using 3D printers in the future is your own imagination.

(1) ‘The Best 3D Printers for 2024’ Tony Hoffman, PC Magazine UK, 31 January 2024 ‘The Best 3D Printers for 2024’ Tony Hoffman, PC Magazine UK (2) Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus, Prusa Research by Josef Prusa, 1 February 2024 (2) Original Prusa i3 MK3S plus, Prusa Research by Josef Prusa (3) TCT 3Sixty 2024: Registration now open for UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and AM event’, TCT Magazine, 14 December 2023 TCT 3Sixty 2024: Registration now open for UK’s definitive industrial 3D printing and AM event’, TCT Magazine (4) Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer, Bambu Lab website, 8 February 2024 Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer, Bambu Lab website (5) ‘The 10 Best Budget 3D Printers for 2023: Affordable Excellence’ AnkerMake Official website, 1 February 2024 ‘The 10 Best Budget 3D Printers for 2023: Affordable Excellence’ AnkerMake Official website (6) ‘Bambu Lab’ About Us, official website, 8 February 2024 ‘Bambu Lab’ About Us, official website (7) ‘Can Fusion 360 create a model for 3D printing?’ Autodesk official website, 8 February 2024 ‘Can Fusion 360 create a model for 3D printing?’ Autodesk official website (8) ‘All you need is a ‘what if…’ Autodesk Tinkercad official website, 8 February 2024 ‘All you need is a ‘what if…’ Autodesk Tinkercad official website

Is Reaching NetZero for Heating the UK’s Homes an Unlikely Pipe-Dream Vision?

What grants and energy efficiency help schemes are available in 2024 in the UK?

Although Rishi Sunak’s government are intentionally working towards NetZero policies, unless you are on a very low income and/or receiving benefits there is currently no simple government help to upgrade insulation and heating systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK citizens need to be homeowners or tenants who have prior permission from their landlords (or landladies) in order to make physical changes to their properties. Installing any new environmentally friendly systems or insulating upgrades that minimise bills and make energy efficiency improvements to their homes, requires consent from the homeowner.

However, across the British Isles, individual bill payers are often eligible for benefit and grant payments or discounts directly from their energy suppliers as appropriate to each type of scheme, as we will outline further below.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a government energy efficiency scheme in England, Scotland and Wales designed to tackle fuel poverty and help reduce carbon emissions. This is focused on low-income households. (1)

The Local Authority Delivery (LAD) provides funding for energy efficiency upgrades and low-carbon heating in low-income households in England in some areas who are receiving funding from central government. (1)

UK government energy support grants for older people

However, if you live on your own and are aged over 67 (born before 1957) there is a winter fuel payment of £500 or £600 that is not income related in terms of assessment. (2)

Older couples or people who live with older people in the UK need to check their specific payment eligibility with their local councils as they may be eligible for a few hundred pounds one off payment towards their heating bills this winter. (2)

Local councils have budgets for emergency financial support under the local welfare assistance scheme for people who experience a short-term crisis. This welfare scheme could include repairing or replacing a sudden broken boiler in a house with vulnerable people, who are without any savings, for example. (3)

Cost of living and energy support payments for people receiving means-tested benefits and/or disability benefits

For those on qualifying low-income benefits there are additional winter fuel ‘cost-of-living’ benefit payments that are automatically paid to households that are already receiving regular benefits. These payments are up to £900 in total and often made in 3 payments. (3)

Standard energy credit meter customers on pension credit and certain other benefits like universal credit will be eligible to receive £150 towards their bills from their supplier, which may be in the form of pre-payment top up vouchers. (2)(3)

Home upgrade grants (HUGs)

Off-grid properties in certain postcodes are eligible for grants towards upgrading their EPC certificates, if they are currently less than a band C (e.g. D to G.) This could include help towards insulation and energy efficient heating systems such as heat pumps. Qualifying depends on certain postcodes and not all councils are offering this grant at the moment, so homeowners will need to enquire with their local councils. (4)

More information about who is eligible to receive winter fuel payments and grants and benefits to help pay winter energy bills and payments are available at the Citizens Advice service website and also the Age UK website.  (1) (2)

The CAB is open every week day in most towns in the UK and the organisation can help with financial advice and help with advice about managing bills and any legal matters, as well as finding out if you and your family is eligible for any government scheme help. The CAB also has a telephone consumer helpline (see below) (1)

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)

‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) enables small-scale generators to receive payments from electricity suppliers for electricity which they export back to the National Grid, providing certain criteria are met.’ (5)

Examples of low-carbon technology system types that may enable UK residents to benefit from SEG payments include: Solar photovoltaic (solar PV) wind, micro combines heat and power (micro-CHP) hydro, anaerobic digestion (5)

These alternative energy system installations must be located in Great Britain and have a total installed capacity (TIC) of no more than 5MW, or no more than 50kW for micro-CHP. See the link below for more details about these ‘pay back’ schemes. (5)

Conclusion – current UK government schemes do not fast-track us to NetZero homes by 2050

All solutions for improving domestic home heating rely on first considering modern insulation methods. Balancing the thermal efficiency of an existing property to maximise a home’s efficiency at retaining heat, whilst maintaining and improving air-quality within the interior space, is important.

Currently the government are focusing their financial support on helping low-income residents with extremely high energy bills during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis that affects millions of households across the British Isles. This will do something to help the alarming rates of fuel poverty currently existing throughout the United Kingdom. (1) (2)

In 2024 there is very little support or no support available to UK tax paying working people of all average and high-income levels, who all face high cost of living costs, who may be interested in financially investing in energy efficient upgrades, to improve the environmental standards and minimise the bills in their properties.

Individual households who may choose to install the latest alternative energy systems will most likely be home owners who are looking to stay in their properties for at least a decade, in order to ‘break even’ on their investments and eventually receive the long-term financial benefits of the high up-front costs of installing a new environmentally friendly home energy systems (for example: solar panels or heat pump systems).

Therefore, budgets and/or savings of many thousands of pounds are required to cover these upfront system upgrade costs, which is a luxury position that is open to relatively few consumers in the country at this current time.

Although new alternative energy systems such as hydrogen ready boilers connected to the national energy grid are undoubtedly the future for achieving NetZero in densely populated countries like the UK, the current selection of products and solutions is very limiting in many small buildings such as the homes that most of us actually live in.

For example, unless you live in an area that is considered warm all year around, stand-alone heat pumps are not a brilliant solution. A very large garden for pipework is often required which does not apply to the majority of the population, who couldn’t afford to dig it all up and totally remodel it all anyway.

Even if you have the right type of sun facing roof, the amount of solar energy available in the UK in the winter will not be enough to independently run a family home’s heating at present, let alone sell it back to an energy supplier for a profit.

That is not to say that choosing to make alternative energy improvements is not worth it in the long term, but that the current ‘green’ home schemes available do very little to inspire or support average home owners to want to devote their hard earnt savings to upgrading their existing boilers unnecessarily.

More central government investment in alternative energy product development and infrastructure is urgent. More training in regulated installers and engineers is also a priority in order to reach home alternative energy system ‘roll out’ objectives of any significant scale to have an impact.

As we approach an election in 2024, any new leadership worth its salt will need to propose a massively better strategy than we currently have in order to reach anywhere near the ambitious target of achieving NetZero homes in the UK by 2050.

There is still a potential for our island to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’ when it comes to alternative energy provision. As previous UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested; we could lead the evolution to NetZero homes in the UK, as we lead the industrial revolution in the 19th century. (4)

Of course, whether rapid industrialisation was a brilliant development for the planet in the long run, is of course controversial, for obvious reasons!

The current uncoordinated situation with a mishmash of mediocre schemes and non-existent incentives. The housing crisis in England means that unless there is a major change in investment, infrastructure and leadership, this idea of delivering a country full of impressive alternative energy driven domestic heating, is currently a very unlikely pipe-dream vision.

See also HotEnough.com related article: Delivering Domestic Heating in Energy Efficient Homes Needs Mojor Policy Improvements in the UK (1) ‘Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills’ Citizens Advice UK, 25 January 2024 ‘Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills’ Citizens Advice UK Citizens Advice Bureau telephone helpline (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm) 08082231133 (2) ‘Warm Home Discount’ Age UK, 25th January 2024 ‘Warm Home Discount’ Age UK (3) ‘Housing and energy grants’ Clare Casalis and Andrew Capstick, MoneySavingExpert, 13 December 2024 ‘Housing and energy grants’ Clare Casalis and Andrew Capstick, MoneySavingExpert (4) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government, published 19 October 2021, updated 1 March 2023 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government (5) ‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)’ Ofgem UK Government Organisation, 25th January 2024 ‘The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)’ Ofgem UK Government Organisation (6) ‘Help with energy efficiency, heating and renewable energy in homes’ 10 January 2024 ‘Help with energy efficiency, heating and renewable energy in homes’ Commons Library UK  

Delivering Domestic Heating in Energy Efficient Homes Needs Major Policy Improvements in the UK

The current situation and NetZero challenge

For several years the UK government has aimed to deliver a strategy that sees England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reach Net Zero by 2050. The Energy Saving Trust defines this as “achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it.”

The Energy Saving Trust declares optimistically that the country will ‘unlock’ £90 billion in investment to achieve this important aim. Emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be substantially cut. (1)

Why to we need to aim for NetZero in the UK domestic heating sector and what can be done?

Carbon dioxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned to meet our demand for energy. There are also other greenhouse gases but carbon dioxide is the most significant problem causing global warming and other severe weather-related problems globally.

Carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) “refers to a suite of technologies that enable the mitigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources like power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities, or the removal of existing CO2 from the atmosphere.” (2)

“Approximately 14% of carbon emissions in the UK are contributed by the usage of fossil fuels for home heating.” according to Greenmatch. (3)

As part of central government policy in 2021 eligible households in the UK could apply for government grants to the value of up to £5000 to upgrade their property and invest in low carbon technologies such as heat pumps for their home heating. However, applications for the Renewable Heat Incentive closed at the end of March 2022. (4)

“Making our buildings more energy efficient and moving away from fossil fuel boilers will help make people’s homes warm and comfortable, whilst keeping bills low.” Stated the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020 as part of previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan. (5)

Currently the main heating solutions currently in use are: gas boilers, low-efficiency electric heating, high carbon oil and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) boilers (usually in off-grid homes) and solid fuel systems such as wood or coal. (6)

Citizens in the UK in 2024 are facing higher than ever costs of owning or renting a home. The heating bill is usually the largest monthly payment that most households make after their rent or mortgage is deducted (often around 50% of home bills).

Average salaries are around £30,000 and the average house costs around £300,000 which means homeowning is a privilege not possible for the majority of adults in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2022 less than 20 percent of adults under 64 years of age owned their own homes outright in England and this only increases to 35 percent of over 65 years olds in England. This is relevant as it is only the homeowners who will initially pay for upgrading the housing stock in the UK due to the large sums of money and long-term commitment involved in making the major system changes required. (8)

A British Gas guide says heating bills in an average UK home is between £2000 and £3000 per year and this month the standing charge has been raised significantly. The price cap which governs the prices suppliers can charge has also been raised again and this will affect all households, especially the poorest, during the ongoing cost- of-living-crisis in the UK. (9) (10)

Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert calls this standing charge system a moral hazard as it disenfranchises customers who want to control their bills by turning the heating right down or off. (11)

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy does not offer any ‘quick fix’ solutions to upgrading the aging and inefficient housing stock in the UK. The UK governments Heat and Buildings Strategy survey has highlighted that there is a shortage of heat pump installation engineers. This is important as heat pump installation must comply with Part L and Part P of the Building Regulations. Therefore, existing engineers need to be upskilled in order to install new style heating systems. (12)

The current UK buildings strategy report updated in March 2023 advises that “The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for England offered vouchers to fund up to two thirds of the value of energy performance and low-carbon heat measures up to the value of £5,000 for homeowners and residential landlords. (or 100% up to the value of £10,000 for low-income owner-occupiers). (12)

More than 133,700 applications were received, and more than 79,200 vouchers have been issued.” However, the Green Homes grant was severely criticised as a “slam dunk fail” as only around 47,500 homes actually benefitted from the scheme, which cost the tax payer over £50 million in administration fees. (13)

The report also points out that local authorities have been given funding to additionally support low-income households in England. This is often delivered through council tax reductions. (12)

The Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) was introduced in 2022 and intended to support upgrades to the worst-performing off-gas grid homes in England. £150 million funding was granted for the first phase of HUG, and a further £950 million funding has been and is available over 2022/23 to 2024/25. (12)

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) aims to upgrade social housing stock which does not meet EPC band C criteria and £800 million was earmarked to be allocated to these improvements. (12)

Hydrogen is an ‘indirect greenhouse gas’ and ways in which to utilise hydrogen which can be produced using low-carbon methods and used for energy solutions in the UK in the future, are currently being investigated by government, industry and regularity bodies.

It is hoped that hydrogen might be able to be piped into houses replacing the need for gas boilers which are currently installed in most homes around the British Isles. Investing in a hydrogen ready gas boiler may be a good option for millions of semi-detached and mid-terrace homes connected to the grid. This could happen gradually as homeowners need to replace their existing gas boilers at the end of their lifespan. (12)

What home heating choices do UK citizens have that help towards reaching NetZero

Citizens in the UK can choose to reduce their household emissions in order to help meet the government’s 2050 Net Zero objectives, if they have savings or expendable income to contribute to the project. One main area is replacing a gas or oil boilers with a more environmentally friendly alternative. The three main options are currently: heat pumps, solar water heating and biomass heating systems. (6)

Hydronic Heat pumps

These can be ground source or air source and occasionally a water source heat pump.

“They work by absorbing heat from a source (in the environment) and transferring it to a fluid, which is compressed to increase the temperature further. The heat is typically transferred from the fluid into water, which is then used to provide heating and hot water to your home.” (6) Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the air. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) absorb heat from the ground.

“As the cold snap bites, it’s time to mention networked ground source heat pumps as a solution to our heating needs, especially for complex-to-decarbonise homes such as high-rise social housing blocks or terrace streets. Due to their discreetness, how they work and the steady ambient temperature of the ground, networked ground source heat pumps provide efficient, cost-effective heating (and cooling) whatever the weather.” Says Tamsin Lishman CEO of The Kensa Group. (4)

However, “domestic-scale heat pumps only provide low temperature heat.” (12)  Heat pump systems used in larger properties such as commercial buildings or communal residential flats are more suited to obtaining higher temperatures.

Heat pumps can be used ‘in reverse’ as cool air pumps which can be useful as global temperatures rise. Hybrid heat pumps can offer benefits including reducing the reliance on natural gas boilers, whilst still offering a good level of thermal comfort. These heat pumps do not help the UK reach Net Zero due to the gas still being burned and the use of refrigerants that contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in some products. (12)

Solar Water Heating

Solar panels also called ‘collectors’ use solar energy from the sun to heat up water that is then stored in a hot water cylinder. (6) The water can be made hotter using a conventional boiler or an immersion heater, which is also useful for when solar energy is not available during darker cloudier days.

Biomass Heating

Wood pellets, chips or logs “heat a single room, or to power central heating and hot water boilers.” The energy saving trust explains how although this method is essential burning fossil fuels, sourcing the wood locally is better for the environment. Biomass can be a more sustainable option when the materials are sourced in a way where there are new plants and trees that continue to grow in place of wood used for fuel.  (6)

The above technologies can be used in combination to obtain optimum flexible heating results for both keeping a warm home and enjoying hot water when required.

“In 2018, domestic burning through wood burning stoves and coal fires was the single largest contributor to national emissions of particulate matter. These particles can cause respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Burning of wood and coal also releases nitrogen oxides, which lead to ozone layer depletion, formation of acid rain, as well as causing respiratory diseases.” (14)

Therefore, great care and consideration needs to be taken when choosing bioenergy to ensure this choice of fuel burning is helping UK residents to move towards NetZero.

Bioenergy can help achieve the environmental targets committed to by the government. This is by reusing materials and fuel of ‘biogenic origin’ such as when manure storage and waste disposal is treated with anaerobic digestion to produce biogas (e.g. biomethane) and bioliquids (e.g. bioLPG), or solids such as wood pellets or chippings. (12)

These treated biofuels can then be used to heat buildings of all types including homes and can be suitable in rural or ‘off-grid’ locations as the best solution for meeting energy efficient needs of a household. However, these solutions are still in need of infrastructure development before they become a widely used heating choice for UK homes.

Summary of the 3 main energy efficient heating systems currently available

All of these three heating solution options above cost upwards of £5,000 thousand pounds and could total more than £20,000 depending on the chosen system. Property location, size of indoor and outdoor space and the age and type of home, as well as the needs of the household, will dictate which options is (or options are) most suitable for each specific home upgrade project.

Councils do not currently have a range of alternative energy home heating schemes to offer to average working and tax paying home owners (or renters) this spring 2024 (see our next article for more information of help with energy bills for those on benefits). The poster image with this article reaches a council web page which requests ‘registrations of future interest’ which is no real help for those eager to upgrade their homes in order to reach our Net Zero targets. (15)

For those with the wherewithal to continue their home upgrade projects regardless, there are suppliers out there in England. Contacting the local council for a list of registered companies who are certified to safely install or deliver these alternative heating systems and getting multiple cost quotes is a sensible idea from the Energy Saving Trust. (7) See our next article for more details of why we urgently need a better energy efficient home heating government policy strategy to reach NetZero by 2050 in the UK.

    (1) ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust, 18 January 2024 ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust (2) ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, 13 March 2023 ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change (3) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’ 18 January 2024 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’ (4) ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction Online Newspaper, 17 January 2024 ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction (5) ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government, 18 November 2020 ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government (6) CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66 CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66 (7) ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust, 9 February 2021 ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust (8) ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website, 16 October 2023 ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website (9) ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas, 19 January 2024 ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas (10) ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government, 19 January 2024 ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government (11) ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert.com, 2 Jan 2024 ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert.com (12) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK, published 19 October 2021, updated 1 March 2023 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK (13) ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating, 2 December 2021 ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating (14) ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website, 21 February 2020 ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website (15) Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (‘no active scheme’ in 2024 page) ‘Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (discontinued)