You have 2 more free articles remaining

Only one Trading Standards officer attended the fair on the Saturday, with the intention of observing, rather than tackling the trade in the light of the Act, in order to assess future needs.

The emphasis at Detling was clearly to educate and inform, starting with the organisers themselves, not the dealers. As Maurice Kane of Trading Standards, explained: “Our emphasis at the moment is on the organisers. In the near future, we’ll focus on the attendees who will be given the opportunity to register with action taken if necessary. We didn’t only visit Detling that Saturday but also boot fairs and markets in other parts of the county.”

Jason Franks, managing director of European Fairs at DMG and organiser of Detling, praised the understated approach of Trading Standards as “very impressive”. Fears that buyers would stay away because of the Act were not realised, with the gate reported as spectacular.

Whilst 20 per cent of the regular stallholders did stay away, preferring to adopt a wait-and-see approach, those who were there felt that they benefited from stalling at a smaller fair with less competition.

Many stallholders were unhappy about the Act, with several not knowing that they had to register, despite DMG sending several letters, some including registration forms, to their stallholders. Whilst the rules of the Act state that dealers are not allowed to trade before they have received their certificates, Trading Standards had realised that this could be problematic and had taken steps to make things as easy as possible for dealers who had yet to register.

There were piles of registration forms available in the DMG office with DMG helpfully forwarding them on behalf of the stallholders and buyers if required, something which was well-received by the trade.

It is not DMG’s – or any other organiser’s – job to ensure that dealers register before attending their fairs. As Mr Franks explained: “The legal process is simple. We have our obligations, the stallholders have theirs. It’s not our job to make them register but we do work with the police and Trading Standards to make people aware of their obligations. It is not a prerequisite of booking that you must register.” That said, people ringing up to book the fair were told that they needed to register to sell (but not buy) in Kent.

Stewards were also briefed to answer any questions about the Act and seemed happy to do so. Several of the stalls clearly displayed their registration certificate in accordance with the Act.

Registered stallholders buying high-priced goods from each other only had to record their names and registration number in accordance with the Act, with no other personal details – such as home addresses – being needed.

There was a mixed response from the dealers to the Act now that it has been implemented. Those who trade at Harrogate and other fairs where similar registration is already in place were unperturbed by it, whilst others were annoyed that it was flawed.

As one stallholder said: “What’s the point of it? It’s ill conceived. If someone’s going to sell stolen goods, they’ll sell them – just register first. It’s all bureaucratic nonsense.” This feeling was echoed throughout the fair but, with the fog closing in and plans to close the nearby M2 overnight for roadworks, the stallholders had other concerns and, for a fair which had anticipated many problems, the only real one was the weather.

In many ways, it is too soon to judge the effect of the Act. Several auction houses in Kent have yet to determine any effect at all apart from their needing to display a registration form similar to those used by dealers at Detling.

It is early days for the Act. Dealers are advised by Trading Standards to register before the February Detling (23-24) or any other Kent fairs if they wish to trade in the county. As David Scott, lead officer for fair trading issues and the former project manager for the Kent County Council Bill (now the KCC Act), said: “It’s a long job. We’ve done our best to raise the profile. It will take time and we will give people the benefit of the doubt initially. We’ve no intention of operating heavy-handedly but we will have to take legal action if dealers continually refuse to register. We’ve tried very hard to work with the trade and are aware of the sensitivities involved.”

Anyone wishing to sell antiques and collectables in Kent who has not yet registered should do so by phoning the registration helpline on 01622 696405 or they can opt to register online on www.kent.gov.uk/tradingstandards. Ask for the form that supplies simplified details of when buyers’ and sellers’ details need to be recorded if you are unsure.