The Government has finally announced the new framework it proposes to operate for promoting consumer protection.
The principal changes adopted are:
- A new body, the National Trading Standards Board, will be established to pull together the Trading Standards teams across England and Wales. It will focus on national and cross boundary enforcement issues and gather information to tackle inappropriate behaviour. The intention is to create this body immediately.
- The Citizens Advice service will be publicly funded and will become the principal consumer advocate body. It will be directed to “champion their needs and empower them to make the right choices for themselves” and will be grated new powers to require public bodies and companies to provide information to assist them in this task. The Citizens Advice will be accountable to Ministers and will take on this new role from April 2013.
- To provide a cohesive approach across the UK a Strategic Intelligence, Prevention and Enforcement Partnership will be set up which will include the following bodies: the National Trading Standards Board mentioned above, Trading Standards in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Citizens Advice service and the OFT operating in its competition based life going forward. The function of this Partnership will be to share learnings and prioritise enforcement and education needs.
It is fair to say that the focussing of consumer protection around Citizens Advice and Trading Standards has not been warmly welcomed by some of the independent consumer bodies.