VC Relay keeps Warrington’s residents in the know.
iCAN is a successful consumer alert network run by Warrington Trading Standards. The organisation aims to reach as wide an audience as possible to keep its members informed of any rogue dealers or consumer scams which are operating in the local area. Membership, which currently stands at over 2,000, is mainly comprised of local residents; it is free to join and is well-publicised within the area through regular newsletters and a comprehensive website.
In order to reach large numbers quickly, iCAN installed VC Relay, enabling its members to choose to receive alerts via email, text, phone – or all three if they choose. Prior to this, Warrington Trading Standards would usually broadcast warnings about recent consumer scams or doorstep crime via an informal network of local people. This was done by ringing them each in turn, but as the numbers grew quickly, this system became unmanageable. At this time, Trading Standards started to look at message broadcasting systems/software, eventually deciding upon VC Relay.
The Relay messaging system has been instrumental in preventing crime, including the protection of some of the area’s most vulnerable citizens. “Recently, a 90-year-old lady was saved from spending thousands of pounds on inappropriate security products following a call from an iCAN member who alerted Trading Standards. Due to the pace and reach of our alert service, Trading Standards were able to intervene in time, ensuring that the lady was supported by relatives. They were also able to extricate her from the contract before any money changed hands.”
”The system allows us to very rapidly issue warnings to the public of Warrington.”
“We have received much positive feedback from members of the network.”
Another relatively common problem that iCAN deals with are incidences of rogue traders going from door to door offering to tarmac drives. Fortunately, in this example, the wrong doers were arrested, prosecuted and jailed following information provided by an iCAN member about their activities and whereabouts which enabled the police to take action swiftly.
In addition to residents, a number of local journalists are members of iCAN. This means that many of the warnings broadcast are picked up by local media without the need to issue formal press releases, extending the network of information still further. The service that iCAN provides was also central to work by Warrington Trading Standards on improving protection for the most vulnerable consumers in Warrington. The success of this work was formally recognised when Warrington Trading Standards won the Municipal Journal Award for Public Protection in 2006.
The VC Relay system is an essential part of this successful scheme and integral to the element of swift communication. “The system allows us to very rapidly issue warnings to the public of Warrington. We broadcast to our members; members broadcast in their communities to friends, relatives and neighbours and so the chain of communication goes on. In addition to this, our members and others provide information back to Trading Standards which helps to keep us one step ahead of the rogues and the scams. The fact that our network is continually growing is testament to the need for such a service and its success, at the core of which is an effective communications system.”