Minister launches new ‘consumer landscape’ consultation document at Trading Standards Conference
Day one of the annual TSI Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference in Bournemouth (Tuesday 21 June) was the theatre for the launch of the eagerly awaited Department for Business Innovation and Skills ‘Empowering and protecting consumers’ consultation’, otherwise known as the ‘Consumer Landscape’.
The consultation was launched by Edward Davey, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, to a packed audience of representatives from trading standards, Citizens Advice, elected local government councillors and business.
The proposals outline initiatives throughout the consumer protection landscape - from consumer information, advice and education to self-regulation and co-regulation through to consumer advocacy and enforcement.
The Government has identified two groups to be at the centre of the consumer protection reforms: The Citizens Advice Service (1) and Trading Standards and the support infrastructure offered by the Local Government Group.
Ed Davey, MP, said: “There is currently a bewildering array of public, private and voluntary bodies with overlapping responsibilities. The Government’s prime objective is to empower consumers to make wise decisions when purchasing goods and services.
“Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice service both enjoy high levels of public awareness and public trust. This is a significant benefit as we strive to inform people better and bolster front-line protection, so my preference is to focus almost all Government spending consumer policy on these two groups.”
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of Trading Standards Institute, said that the Trading Standards Institute had played a significant part in getting the Consumer Landscape document to where it is today.
He said: “The Consumer Landscape consultation is a positive step forward. It gives us the chance to redesign how consumer protection works so that it is more coherent. This need for change was highlighted by a National Audit Office report last week, which concluded that the way BIS, OFT and local authority trading standards are arranged does not offer value for money nor a joined-up service.”
He added: “It puts great reliance on the front line of Trading Standards working with front line of Citizens’ Advice as partners - working with others has always been in the DNA of Trading Standards, so we look forward to these proposals.
“Likewise with Trading Standards in Scotland, we look forward to collectively making an impact on behalf of consumers in a way that helps drive growth to the economy, and we welcome the debate that the Welsh Government’s proposals for Trading Standards in Wales.”
The consultation outlines that the simple message to consumers will be: if you need information or advice, go to Citizens Advice. Under the Government’s proposal, responsibility and resources for all such publicly-funded activity at the national level should in future transfer to the Citizens Advice service (except for financial literacy and consumer finance or for public services including health).(2)
The Government is proposing to create a single Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) with a clear primary focus on securing competition in markets. The document says that the preference would be that this body should have consumer enforcement powers linked to its competition policy responsibility only. Under the proposals, the Government may also expand the ‘primary authority’ scheme for regulatory compliance (which Local Authority Trading Standards Services currently offers to larger businesses) to smaller businesses.
Consumer advocacy, the representation of consumers’ interests and defence of their rights, is important for empowering consumers and the Government wants Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland to be the consumer advocates. The Government proposes to transfer most of the consumer-related research and advocacy functions of the OFT and Consumer Focus to the Citizens Advice service.
Under the ‘consumer landscape’ plans, the Government is proposing a new approach to national and regional enforcement. There would be new mechanisms to provide leadership and co-ordination within the Trading Standards network to combat threats to fair trading which go beyond local authority boundaries. This is so that effective action is taken against rogues and those engaging in sharp practices outside local authority boundaries and at national level. It will complement the work funded by local authorities at the local level.
(1) The Citizens Advice Service (comprising Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland) and Trading Standards (comprising Local Authority Trading Standards services (LATSS), the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), the Chief Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers (ACTSO) and the support infrastructure offered by the Local Government Group.
(2) The document identifies that education about consumer issues falls into three categories: awareness-raising among the public of consumer rights, scams and rogue traders; direct education of the public and provision of materials to teachers; and educating businesses about their responsibilities to treat consumers fairly.
Notes for Editors:
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press officer Lizi Piggins on 0845 6089430 or 07780675815 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. We are also supporting the delivery of initiatives such as the advice services Consumer Direct, UK ECC and UK ECCS.
The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2011
The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference and Exhibition 2011, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a 'must' for consumer journalists! The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.
The 2011 Conference is being held at the Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 21 June to Thursday 23 June. The conference is hosted by TSI president Baroness Christine Crawley and TSI chairman Peter Heafield.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes. Please also contact the press office should you wish to organise any interviews.
Some 2,000 people are expected to attend the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. There will be in excess of 100 exhibitors. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!
Consumer Landscape consultation document
The proposals set out in the consultation document have been guided by the following objectives: Strength in the front line of consumer empowerment and protection, Reduce the complexity of consumer landscape, Consumer services to be delivered more cost-effectively.