The consultation seeks to modernise consumer law by consolidating and simplifying officers’ investigatory powers set out in around 60 scattered pieces of consumer law into a single set. This will ensure that powers are transparent for both business and regulators.
The proposals also aims to reduce burdens on business, by ensuring that officers’ routine visits are pre-arranged unless there are compelling reasons for them to be unannounced.
They follow the Government’s agenda to simplify consumer law in response to the Red Tape Challenge and Focus on Enforcement, which aims to improve transparency and practice within national and local regulatory functions, including Trading Standards.
Consumer Minister Norman Lamb said:
“The UK has one of the best consumer protection regimes in the world but because the current law has developed piecemeal over many decades, it is fragmented and overly complex, making it hard for consumers and business to understand.
“Trading Standards officers’ enforcement powers are a prime example of this and we need a major simplification of the law to make it easier for them to tackle rogue traders and protect consumers nationally as well as at a local level.”
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute said:
“At this time of great economic pressure on local authorities, it is vital that Trading Standards are able to tackle rogue traders as simply, quickly and cost effectively as possible.
“We welcome a consultation that seeks to consolidate and simplify the investigatory powers used by Trading Standards and believe it is vital that all stakeholders contribute examples of best practice and evidence any concerns.”
BIS also welcomed the publication today of a joint report by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on Strengthening consumer redress against misleading and aggressive practices. It would give consumers subjected to aggressive practices a right of redress, including a right to cancel the contract for a fixed period of 90 days.
BIS will consult further on proposals to simplify other consumer rights later in 2012 for a new Consumer Bill of Rights to comprehensively update consumer law and scrap or reform some 12 pieces of existing legislation.