Minister announces boosts for consumer and regulatory services at Year Ahead
New funding and initiatives were announced by the Consumer Minister in his key note speech, opening the first joint regulatory services Year Ahead conference with a bang.
Promises from last summer’s Consumer White Paper are beginning to take shape as Kevin Brennan MP made his commitment to trading standards clear and detailed a number of key developments:
* New funding is to be made available to the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards services to create internet enforcement teams. These cyber teams will focus on cracking down online scams and are inspired by existing Scambusters and Illegal Money lending teams described by the Minister as ‘extremely effective’.
* A Fighting Fund has been set up to help local authorities see through large scale prosecutions they may otherwise not be able to afford. Local authorities are invited to start bidding for funds from April 1.
* The Excellency Framework, produced by LACORS and LBRO, was launched - it is a practical and high quality guide which is a first of its kind endorsed locally and nationally. As well as providing a basis for assessing service delivery the Excellence Framework is intended to provide a benchmark for national bodies, and to enable businesses and consumers to be reassured of the quality of services they are receiving.
* The Government is acting to enable civil sanctions to be imposed; the aim is to give more flexibility to respond to infringements in an effective and proportionate way, while enabling compensation to be offered to consumers where appropriate. LBRO is developing a pilot involving 10 trading standards services and the OFT– there will be a consultation later this month.
* The Minister confirmed that a consumer advocate is to be introduced – he / she will promote consumer education and will have new powers to gain redress for groups of consumers by taking collective action. There is set to be a consultation on the exact role and remit of the advocate.
Trading Standards Institute’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: ‘This Government support comes at a vital time for trading standards, and consumers and businesses who depend on their services, as local authority funds face unprecedented challenges.
‘We hope to see this commitment continue through the difficult times, irrespective of the outcome at the General Elections.’