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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Strengthen the powers of consumer enforcement bodies

Last updated: 02:10pm 24 January 2019

We will strengthen the powers of consumer enforcement bodies to order fines against companies breaking consumer law and deliver redress for wronged parties.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.59

Our verdict

The manifesto outlines an ambition to tackle “economic pressures that hold back ordinary, working families”. One of the mechanisms it proposes to achieve that is increasing the fairness of consumer markets. Consumer protection is crucial for that fairness, particularly when, as the manifesto acknowledges, at times “a market works against the interests of consumers”.

This policy is a promise to strengthen the powers of consumer enforcement bodies to better protect consumers when companies break the law.

The most significant action on this has been the green paper consultation document Modernising Consumer Markets, published in April 2018. It outlines three central principles, one of which relates directly to this policy:

  • consumers should be able to get redress when things go wrong and consumer rights are effectively enforced

The green paper makes clear the intention to follow through on this policy pledge:

“The government intends to introduce legislation to give civil courts the power to impose financial penalties on companies for breaches of consumer law. All consumer law enforcers…will be able to ask the courts to impose fines…”

As with so many areas, the UK’s exit from the European Union does affect this policy. Government guidance concedes that after Brexit, “there may be an impact on the extent to which UK consumers are protected when buying goods and services in the remaining Member States”.

With Brexit negotiations ongoing and feedback from the green paper being analysed, it’s definitely a case of “wait and see” for this pledge. If the promised legislation appears, and once the Brexit impact becomes clearer, we’ll be able to make a final decision. For now this is ‘in progress’. Follow this policy to stay informed.

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