High street discount retailer Poundstretcher has been fined £350,000 for selling tens of thousands of batteries that were potentially harmful to young children.
Crown Crest (Leicester) plc, the importer and majority share hold of Poundstrecher PLC, which has branches in Milton Keynes, Bletchley and Houghton Regis, was also fined £140,000 for their involvement with the importation of the batteries.
The fines, among the biggest of their kind for a High Street store, were imposed by a judge sitting at Swansea Crown Court because he wanted to make the sale of such batteries uneconomic to companies which sold them
The fines came at the end of a nationwide probe launched by Swansea Council’s trading standards team after they were tipped off about the sales of batteries at the firm’s stores in Neath Port Talbot and Swansea.
It resulted in more than 85,000 AA, AAA and other everyday batteries being seized from the firm, following tests funded by National Trading Standards’ National Tasking Group. And it emerged that Poundstretcher had sold more than four million of the batteries, normally in packs of 20, in its stores up and down the country as well as online since 2011.
Trading Standards Officer Rhys Harries said: “The fines are the biggest I’ve ever seen in a single prosecution of a High Street store.
“I think it reflects the seriousness of the offences as far as the court was concerned. People buying batteries – especially at this time of the year – expect them to be safe to use. Tens of thousands which were being sold by Poundstretcher were not.”
Poundstretcher pleaded guilty to a total of 35 charges of selling AA, AAA, C2 and D-type batteries, contrary to the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 at a hearing In September. It also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a ‘suspension order’ issued under the same legislation.
Crown Crest Ltd, the company which owns most of Poundstretchers, admitted it imported the goods from the Far East and had sold 3.9m of them since 2011.
During its investigation, trading standards officers could not find evidence that Poundstretcher had a written procedure for reporting safety concerns.
In evidence to the court, the council said: “Poundstretcher was asked about the procedure for safety concerns and they stated they would report via the company QA department, area manager, health and safety manager or company secretary. However this procedure isn’t written down anywhere.”