DM is one of the seven sectors where the OFT wants to see yet more codes, according to its recently published response to the feedback it got to February 2001 proposals along the same lines.
Topic: Consumer Protection
Who: The Office of Fair Trading
When: July 2001
Following its consultation paper on Consumer Codes of Practice in February 2001, the OFT has now published its further proposals in the light of the responses received. From this it is clear that by 2002 the plan is to have no less than seven new sectoral Codes of Practice in place. These will cover various areas including “clear and truthful marketing and advertising,” pre contractual information, fair contracts, delivery dates, cancellation rights and guarantees and warranties.
The areas targeted by the OFT are estate agents, direct marketing, travel, credit, funeral services, car repair and servicing and used car sales.
The process will require additional funding and new powers for the OFT, but this is anticipated courtesy of an “Enterprise Bill to be brought before Parliament in 2001/2.” It will start with the issue of the final “core criteria” for the seven codes, the assessment in September/October 2001 of applications from trade bodies (“code sponsors”) in the relevant sectors together with their proposed codes.
Following this, in stage 2, approved sponsors will have to show they have introduced their codes following which the OFT will endorse and promote the relevant Code.
Why this matters:
Most if not all the areas the new codes will be required to cover will already be the subject of legal regulation and/or self regulatory codes-the direct marketing industry for instance and the ABTA Code for the travel industry, with a considerable body of recent legislation controlling estate agents. It is difficult at this stage, therefore, to see how this new, involved procedure will produce anything likely to yield tangible additional benefit for the consumer. Nevertheless the OFT appears intent on proceeding with this initiative, so relevant trade bodies in the target industries will need to move quickly and step carefully to ensure their members’ interests are best served.