Mobility aids sector: unfair practices

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) closed consumer enforcement case.

Case information

Case reference number: CRE-E/26921
Complainant: OFT own-initiative investigations

Summary of work

The OFT has opened a number of investigations into traders operating in the mobility aids sector in connection with potential breaches of the Enterprise Act 2002 in respect of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 and the Consumer Credit Act 1974, further to suggestions of non-compliant activity in this sector.

The OFT received information which prompted it to investigate the practices of two national companies operating in the mobility aids sector (further details are outlined below). In addition, the OFT is investigating other similar behaviour and it has started action which could result in the removal of the credit licences from a number of traders in the mobility aids sector.

The opening of these investigations follows concerns raised by consumers, local Trading Standards Services (TSS) and other advisory services and is further to own initiative inquiries into available intelligence. The OFT has prioritised this work due to the potentially highly vulnerable nature of consumers in this sector and issues exposed further to the OFT market study into this sector.  

In the course of the OFT's enquiries, Acorn Mobility Services Limited has worked closely with the OFT to improve both its terms and conditions, in line with unfair contract terms legislation, and its internal processes to improve its standards of customer care. We have appreciated the company's willingness to engage with us. The contact has been extremely positive and the company has implemented revised terms and conditions, resulting in improvements for consumers. Outstanding issues regarding improved sales and after-sales care are in the process of being resolved. Once finalised, these will be monitored regularly by local TSS. We anticipate that this intervention is likely to represent significant improvements for consumers both in relation to purchases and service agreements and will consequently also drive up competitive standards across the market.

The second company has a national reach and operates in the doorstep sales channel. Its practices that raised concerns related to potentially misleading techniques used by its sales representatives, which included some of the sales practices highlighted by this study. We continue to investigate this case under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

The OFT continues to progress this work in discussion with a number of TSSs. Such cases may also raise questions of fitness in relation to any consumer credit activities licensable by the OFT.

The latter investigation is ongoing. Further updates will be made on this section of the website in the coming weeks.

Published 1 February 2012