After a period of consultation with various interested parties, the Scottish Government has recently published the Consumer Scotland Bill.
Objective and purpose
The main purpose of the Bill is to establish a public body for Scotland. That body will be known as 'Consumer Scotland' and will be an investigatory public body, tasked with carrying out a strategic review of consumer welfare to identify areas of harm that require in-depth inquiry, and recommend solutions to these issues.
The overarching purpose of Consumer Scotland will be to provide consumer advocacy and advice with a view to:
reducing consumer harm in Scotland; increasing confidence among consumers in Scotland in dealing with businesses that supply goods and services to consumers; and increasing the extent to which consumer matters are taken into account by public authorities in Scotland.
It is anticipated that the new body will be established no earlier than September 2020, but this is subject to the Bill timetable and ongoing policy development.
Commenting on the legislation, Scottish Retail Consortium Head of Policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell said:
“Scottish retailers believe open markets – with maximum choice and competition - and consumer protection are inextricably linked and that empowered consumers can drive up standards in consumer facing businesses and services. The creation of a Scottish consumer body to cover the devolved elements of competition and consumer policy can help to offer the best form of protection for consumers real interests. We would note this is a policy area which has been developed at a UK, and indeed European level in recent years. Consequently, whilst a distinctly Scottish approach to advocacy and advice will be valuable, it’s important policy is considered in light of that wider approach and aligned to prevent unnecessary and expensive divergence which could drive up costs without aiding customers".
Retailers obviously have a very strong interest in ensuring that their customers have clear information and choice, especially with the rapid evolution of digital and multi-channel platforms giving greater options. With the United Kingdom leaving the EU, it is important that a positive approach is taken to ensure consumers continue to be protected.