Coronavirus: Face covering sellers warned by Oxfordshire Trading Standards

Traders in Oxfordshire are being warned not to sell low-tech face coverings as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or make claims they provide protection against COVID-19.

Face coverings on public transport and for hospital staff, outpatients and visitors became compulsory in Oxfordshire, and across the country, from 15 June. However, a face covering mainly protects others from infection rather than the wearer from infection from others.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team has seen an increase in reports of face coverings being offered for sale, particularly among online traders on Facebook Selling Groups, often apparently manufactured by the seller themselves.

Trading Standards legislation controls the sale of these products and requires producers and sellers to ensure:

  • There are no claims made on the product labelling and marketing about any level of personal protection from COVID-19
  • There are no hazards associated with this type of product including strangulation, suffocation, choking, sharp points or rough edges
  • The fabric used does not shed fibres that may be inhaled
  • The material used is suitable to be worn against the skin and does not contain dye with chemicals containing harmful content that could be ingested
  • That the product or packaging has sufficient traceability information including the name and address of the producer
  • That no registered trademarks or designs are used without consent

Head of Trading Standards for Oxfordshire County Council, Jody Kerman, said:

“Now that it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings, and general best practice to wear them in enclosed public places, there is naturally an increased demand from the public for these items. We have quickly seen some enterprising individuals making these products and selling them, particularly via social media.

“On one hand, that is positive, and it provides consumer choice, but it is very important that anyone making or selling face coverings commercially ensures that they are safe and legally compliant.

“Legislation has always existed in relation to items that come into contact with the skin and we appreciate that any new producers might not be aware of what is required. That is why we have put together a dedicated page on our website which provides all the information needed in one place.”

Trading Standards is regularly monitoring online sites and will be actively engage with sellers to ensure any face coverings are safe and legal.

Anyone involved in making or selling face coverings should in the first instance visit: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sites/default/files/file/coronavirus/guidance_for_producers_of_face_coverings.pdf

Follow-up advice can be requested by contacting Trading Standards on 01865 895999 (Option 2) or email Trading.Standards@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Community Safety, said:

“I would like to thank everyone in Oxfordshire for playing their part in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“A reminder that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

“Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures but may help to protect others by reducing airborne transmission.”