Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jo Swinson BIS Plans to boost Britain's Young Street Sellers

The European Services Directive on freedom to trade in 2009  has put pressure on the UK Government  from a sales related perspective. At first it was not apparent that the directive would cover pedlars, but when the European Commission decided that it did, a change in the law was required. The purpose was to make it easier for service providers to set up or sell their services anywhere in the EU.

 I suspect few of the UK’s field representatives, desk based sales professionals or key account executives would give any thought that their right to carry out the act of selling would need  to be legally certificated.
Such a certificate must bought and registered at a Police Station or local government office by pedlars.

Pedlars’ trade is governed by the Pedlars Act of 1871.

 The Act requires travelling salesmen to have a permanent home address and to be of “good character” before police will grant them a certificate.

There are around 4,000 pedlars registered with the country’s police authorities.

They have applied filling in a form much like the one here (left).


The  Coalition Government Minister for Employment and Consumer affairs at the Department  for Business Innovation and Skills,Jo Swinson says “The Pedlars Act is an archaic law which requires those wishing to peddle to obtain a pedlar's certificate (and pay a fee for this) at a time when small businesses are at the heart of continuing growth in the UK - this is unhelpful and restrictive bureaucracy.”

But pedlars will have to comply with new rules under the plan

A pedlar will have to move to a new site 10 minutes after arriving at a location and attempting to sell his wares, under the proposed reforms. The new site must be at least 50 meters from the first location and he should move on again after another 10 minutes. Pedlars will not be allowed to return to a previous location for at least three hours.

However, if they are approached by customers they will be allowed to complete any transactions before being expected to move.

They will also have to carry all their goods unsupported or in a trolley, which must be pushed or pulled and no larger than two metres high.

Words from the  Act of 1871 are Dickensian mentioning titles like 'Chapman', 'tinker' 'mender of chairs' – their means of travel described as ‘ a horse or any other beast of burden”

"The term pedlar means any hawker, pedlar ,petty chapman, tinker, cater of metals, mender of chairs or any other person who without a horse or other beast bearing  burden or drawing burden travels and trades on foot or goes from town to town to other men’s houses carrying to sell or exposing for sale any goods , wares, or merchandise or procuring for goods , wares or merchandise or procuring orders for goods wares or merchandise immediately to be delivered or selling or offering for sale his skill in handicraft"



Certificate not required by commercial travellers, sellers of fish or sellers in fairs

1.       Commercial travellers or other persons selling or seeking orders for goods wares  or merchandise to or from persons who are dealers in or who buy to sell again ore selling or seeking orders for books as agents authorised in writing by the publishers of such books

2.       Sellers of fish, fruit or victuals

3.       Persons selling or  exposing to sale goods, wares or merchandise in any public mart , market or fair legally established.

Concerns from Local Authorities
Councils have previously raised concerns that looser restrictions could make it more difficult to monitor traders. The Local Government Association  LGA spokesman Cllr Mehboob Khan warned the plan could turn high streets into a "free for all for rogue traders" and threatened to encourage cold callers who prey on the elderly.

"Allowing a street trade free-for-all is likely to drive customers away from the high street and create an unlevel playing where legitimately run shops and market stalls find themselves struggling to compete.

And 'Solicitors' ? ! :)

 ( Perhaps  today’s legal professionals  called Solicitors would not like to be grouped with those who ‘solicit’ on the high street !)

Nonetheless Wikipedia has under its page on Peddler reads “A peddler, in British English (!) pedlar, also known as a canvasser, cheapjack, monger, higler or solicitor (with negative connotations since the 16th century), is a travelling vendor of goods.

In England, the term was mostly used for travelers hawking goods in the countryside to small towns and villages; they might also be called tinkers or gypsies."

 In London more specific terms were used, such as costermonger. ( Coster – type of Apple and monger = seller)

But the government said current regulation of 1871 of door-to-door traders was “untenable”.

 The government believes the reforms could see more pedlars from other EU states operating in Britain, encourage “entrepreneurship”, and increase competition and “diversity”.

The minister said: “Some of the best places to shop are our vibrant street trading stalls, which are an important part of traditional British culture. “These proposed changes will help give a boost to those that trade on the street.”

“The changes we're proposing will help to eliminate barriers to street traders and pedlars by making it easier to trade, boosting retail and helping small traders - including many young entrepreneurs - to expand and grow.

There is only a “minimal” risk that the move could lead to more pedlars who are of “poor character” because police rarely check applicants’ detailed criminal records or refuse to grant certificates on the grounds of character.

Councils will no longer have the power to refuse an application on the grounds there are already enough traders and shops in a particular area.

The On line reaction

There has long been a suspicion if not phobia of dishonest or petty criminal activity associated with pedlars and travellers. Such opinions are even held today in the digital age.

I noticed that in the group thread following the BBC website news on the story this weekend the early comments posted were disapproving. But by 300 comments both sides of the argument were being put forward.

Here are some of the public concerns over the new proposals from comments on line.

We are continually pestered by sales-people in shops, in the streets of towns, on the phone at home, via email and (other than on the BBC) on television and the web........this harassment should not be even further extended to our doorsteps


Unsolicited calls by phone and at the door cause great distress and worry. .....This is an unwelcome proposal

You have to ask what is going on through the government's minds at the moment?


There are far too many on our door steps now with the likes of charity and energy firms knocking at your door at 8pm at night. I certainly don't want anymore. If they want to encourage people to be entrepreneurs then they need to make it easier for people to see up small businesses on the high street.

Utterly wrong...

All cold calling on the door step or by phone should be banned.

It is invasive and annoying and most of the time, borderline fraudulent.

With the exception of the very old or infirm most of us know how to get what we need or want.

And it's exactly those first two groups who risk being exploited and actually need more protection.

The government is holding a consultationon the plans which closes on 15 February.

Related Links

BIS Slideshow    which refers to the study by Durham University

Department of Business Innovation and Skills

Local Government association

For a Pedlar’s View Spitalfields Life  by the gentle author– Tony Hawkins retired pedlar


  1. Hugh, there is good comment by Joe on the Vagabondia piece / Spittalfields News and I have quoted you and your opinion. I am surprised that you have not made detailed research into because that will have helped you reject the absurd proposition being made by HMG BIS that by scrapping the common law introduction of the Pedlars Act and by making pedlars liable to be made victims of criminal prosecution that this is a process of "deregulation" by introducing "burdensome" regulation where and now at present non exists. Yet further BIS ill-informed or deliberately chosen ignorance about how to apply the EU Services Directive will in fact increase the revenue burden on Local Authority, Local Council Tax Payers and police and most likely lead to collapse in control and moral values that had been the cornerstone of the British Constitution. Future vision for the British people although also divided into "devolved" communities will be a series of different economically supported fiefdoms relying on force majeur imposed by rampant bounty hunting "private agencies" such as G4S.

  2. Thanks for your comment , quoting me and the link to http://www.pedlars

    When I have the time I will come back to the comment and do some more research as you urge

    I respect your passion and knowledge on the issue
    Best Wishes and Good Selling

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