In 2002, the Enterprise Act set up the procedures and structures for a new ‘super complaint’ procedure where market activities were significantly harming the interests of consumers. Now the first bodies have been given power to make those complaints. More at
Topic: Consumer protection
Who: The Consumers' Association, The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and the National Consumer Council
Where: The UK
When: 14 July 2004
The Enterprise Act 2002 (Bodies designated to make super-complaints) Order 2004 came into force on 14 July 2004.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002 the Secretary of State has the power to designate any body that appears to her to represent the interests of consumers and satisfies other published criteria as a "designated consumer body" for the purposes of submitting a "super complaint" under Section 11 of the Enterprise Act 2002.
This 2004 Order so designates the Consumers' Association, the National Associations of Citizens Advice Bureaux and the National Consumer Council. The trio are the very first to be formally given this new power.
Consumer interest harm test
As previously reported on marketinglaw, designated consumer bodies may submit a "super complaint" where they consider that there is any market feature in the United Kingdom or combination of features, such as the conduct of business in a sector, including marketing by those operating within it, that is or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers.
Super complaints can be made to the Office of Fair Trading, the Director General of Telecommunications, the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, the Director General of Water Services, the Rail Regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Director General of Electricity Supply for Northern Ireland and the Director General of Gas for Northern Ireland.
Any regulator to whom a super complaint is made by a designated body must respond within 90 days. The response must explain how the regulator will deal with the super complaint and give reasons for this. The regulator can also decide to take immediate action using any of its powers, to investigate further or not to take any further action.
Why this matters:
Informal super complaints have already been made in respect of doorstep selling, care homes and private dentistry. Now that these three well-established bodies have formally been given these new powers, it can only be a matter of time before the super complaints start to roll in and marketers who abuse commercial communications channels should be wary.