So it’s farewell, then, to “Stop Now” Orders. Designed to give sharper teeth to UK consumer law enforcement bodies, they were probably best known for their nickname “SNORES”.
Topic: Consumer Protection
Proposed new law: Competition and consumer provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002
Previously on marketinglaw, we have reported the introduction, pursuant to new legislation, of new powers for trading standards officers, the Office of Fair Trading and certain recognised consumer bodies, to apply to the courts for "Stop Now" orders preventing businesses from acting in a manner contrary to a range of consumer protection legislation. The existence of these powers was underlined in early May when it was announced that the OFT was making its first application to the Court to enforce a Stop Now order. This followed persistent failure on the part of a trader to comply with a Stop Now order previously issued against it. The enforcement of the order will be by way of the OFT issuing proceedings for contempt of Court, and if the Court takes the view that there has been a breach of the order, the maximum penalty is two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
What will change:
With the coming into force of the competition and consumer protection provisions of the 2002 Enterprise Act, "Stop Now Orders" will become "Enforcement Orders". As before, the powers will be exercisable in respect of a wide range of activity that is contrary to consumer law. A new development, however, will be that the powers will extend to any failure on the part of a business to comply with its legal obligations generally, and not just obligations under specified consumer protection laws. The litmus test will remain the same, however, namely does the conduct harm the collective interests of consumers.
A new procedure due to arrive at the same time as the "Enforcement Order" will be the power of consumer bodies to make what are called "super complaints" to the Office of Fair Trading. These will be complaints in relation to a business's activities which are contrary to consumer interests and will be the subject of a fast track complaint processing capability which the OFT is required by the Enterprise Act to have in place. As part of this new process, the OFT will be obliged to reply substantively to any super complaint within 90 days of receiving it.
The new "Enforcement Orders", the super complaint procedure and the wider basis on which enforcement orders can be applied for will all be applicable from 20 June 2003, when the relevant provisions of the Enterprise Act come into force.