By James Partridge, Partner. Contact Thomson Snell and Passmore 01892 510000.
Have you been selected to complete a questionnaire by the ONS? You must comply with the request.
The Statistics of Trade Act 1947 provides the Office of National Statistics (the ONS) with the authority to collate and publish information on trends in business performance. The business data collected by the ONS from businesses across England and Wales assists the Government, Treasury and other financial institutions with policy-making decisions, monitoring the economy and measuring inflation.
The ONS randomly selects businesses to complete one of the 1.7 million questionnaires sent out annually. To ensure an accurate cross sample, the size of business and industry sectors selected will vary greatly and it is possible for a business to be selected more than once to complete a questionnaire.
If a business has no data to report then a genuine ‘zero report’ will be valid as the ONS sets out to measure accurate business trends. If a business cannot provide exact details in its response then informed estimates will be accepted by the ONS.
There is a legal obligation on businesses to comply with the ONS’ requests and there is no appeal procedure or exemption from completing and returning the questionnaire. Failure to complete a questionnaire may result in prosecution and a fine of up to £2,500. Should a business provide false information, on conviction, penalties can range from a £4,000 fine and/or three months imprisonment to an unlimited fine and two years imprisonment.
The questionnaires are relatively easy to follow and complete but if your business receives a questionnaire and you’re not sure how to respond to it, we have recent experience of assisting with the completion of a questionnaire and so please feel free to contact us if you need some help or advice in doing so.
Further information and examples of the statistics collated and published can be found at www.ons.gov.uk.