BIS has announced the latest measures (PDF, 310 Kb) to improve the systems of help, advice and protection available for consumers, with Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland taking on responsibilities from the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) and Consumer Focus.
This will mean:
- A new advice line succeeding Consumer Direct (launched by the Citizens Advice service on 2 April).
- Citizens Advice responsible for representing consumers’ interests in unregulated sectors (replacing Consumer Focus).
- A new National Trading Standards Board (NTSB).
As part of the reforms, the new NTSB will bring together representatives of Trading Standards from England and Wales to prioritise, fund and coordinate national and regional enforcement cases.
The NTSB will be responsible for gathering important intelligence from around the country to combat rogue traders, and tackle priorities such as internet scams, illegal money lending and other enforcement issues that go beyond local authority boundaries.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has also set up a task group to look at how best to deliver the landscape changes in Scotland in both the short and long-term.
Consumer Affairs Minister, Norman Lamb said:
“For too long people have been faced with an array of different bodies for advice and support, but its not always clear who to turn to first.
“The Citizens Advice service will become the publicly-funded voice of consumers, championing their needs and empowering them to make the right choices for themselves.
“There will also be clearer responsibilities and better coordination between enforcers and consumer bodies. A new National Trading Standards Board is exactly what we need to combat priority areas such as loan sharks and internet scams.
“All of the reforms will ensure that we have the right system of help, advice and protection for consumers.”
The Competition and Markets Authority
The competition authorities will also continue to play a key role in empowering and protecting UK consumers, following changes announced to the competition regime in March.
The new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be responsible for promoting effective competition in markets across the UK economy for the benefit of consumers and allow more effective co-ordination with Trading Standards.
Above all the proposals will help streamline the consumer landscape and ensure a powerful consumer voice to business, government and regulators.