UK Government publishes “Modern Markets: Confident Consumers” White Paper
No doubt aware that the EuNo doubt aware that the European Commission were focusing hard on consumer protection as a big issue and working on a consultation paper intended as the precursor to a raft of new legislative proposals, the UK Government has published its own White Paper heralding a move to the introduction of a "joined up" system of consumer rights and laws with real teeth. The move is also a response to the "rip off Britain" refrain of the last few years and the perceived need for greater levels of consumer protection as we enter the next millennium and a mature digital age.
What will change:
Amongst the changes the Paper heralds are new powers for the OFT and Trading Standards to stop traders defrauding the public, a "Consumer Gateway" on the Internet to shepherd consumers to the information they need, setting up a new network of advice agencies providing consumer advice, spearheaded by a "Community Legal Service" initiative with a CLS website at its hub, providing links and directions to legal advice and information on consumer issues.
Also introduced will be a set of core principles upon which all consumer-protection orientated Codes of Practice, including emarketing and advertising Codes, should be based, and a system whereby all such Codes may obtain official Office of Fair Trading approval Greater power and influence for consumer protection associations such as the Consumers’ Association are also on the way, as will be improved research on consumer issues such as how UK prices compare internationally.
Most of the remaining action points are no more than warmed-over references to legislation already on the way, implementing, for instance, the Consumer Injunction, Comparative Advertising, Price Labelling and Distance Selling Directives (see relevant previews in this section). There can be little doubt, however, that the Government intends to push through this populist initiative, and marketers and brand owners can expect even fewer hiding places from regulation and intervention as we enter the tri-millennium.
Timetable: Many of the regulatory changes are already due to come into force over the next twelve months, but others will no doubt be coming through between now and the next election. What happens next: More detailed proposals in the numerous areas and sectors discussed will be published over the next few months, or simply introduced, so consider yourselves warned!