The manifesto asserts the Conservatives’ belief in markets, but it also acknowledges that there are times “when a market works against the interests of consumers” (page 59). At such times, those who are vulnerable are more likely to suffer. Many different characteristics and circumstances can imply vulnerability depending on the nature of the market consumers are engaging with, for example, age, race, gender, disability, income or level of education.
This policy is a pledge to prioritise the interests of vulnerable consumers and to consider requiring regulators to do likewise.
The principal government body overseeing consumer protection is the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). From May to July 2018, the CMA hosted a series of roundtable discussions with multiple stakeholders on the topic of vulnerable consumers:
- Consumer vulnerability in digital markets
- Consumers on low incomes
- Consumers navigating markets while living with mental health problems
This culminated in a conference – Markets that work for all – helping vulnerable consumers – on 24 July 2018, attended by representatives from 57 organisations across the academic, business, civic and governmental arenas. In the closing remarks of the symposium the CMA said the “discussions had demonstrated a shift in how regulators think and act”.
In its Annual Plan consultation 2019/20, the CMA identified four main draft priorities, one of which was “Protecting vulnerable consumers”, so work in this area is ongoing.
The research, consultation and analysis on vulnerable consumers by the CMA indicates a degree of commitment to fulfilling this policy pledge, so we’re marking it as ‘in progress’. However, to move it to ‘done’ we would expect to see regulatory or legislative changes clearly aimed at putting “the interest of vulnerable consumers first”. Follow this policy for updates.
Interested in the details?
- Competition and Markets Authority Annual Plan 2018/19 – Gov.uk
- Vulnerable consumers – Gov.uk
- Consumer vulnerability in digital markets: summary of stakeholder roundtable – Gov.uk
- Consumers on low incomes: summary of stakeholder roundtable – Gov.uk
- Consumers navigating markets while living with mental health problems: summary of stakeholder roundtable – Gov.uk
- Markets that work for all – helping vulnerable consumers: CMA symposium summary – Gov.uk
- Competition and Markets Authority Annual Plan consultation 2019/20 – Gov.uk