OFT Launches Call for Evidence on Markets in Remote Communities Across UK

Jack Humphrey, Regulatory journalist
February 12, 2012 /

The Office of Fair Trading is launching a fact-finding review to understand more about the challenges facing consumers and businesses in remote communities across the UK.

The UK’s consumer and competition body is calling for evidence from the public in these areas to help inform its work.

The OFT recognises that prices of many goods and services are frequently higher in remote communities, there can be fewer suppliers available, and access to key services such as shops, dentists, chemists, banks and public transport can be limited.

Fuel prices are a common cause for concern for those who need to travel long distances to get to school, to work or to the shops. Whilst shopping online may expand opportunities for broader choice and quality, deliveries to more isolated areas can sometimes be problematic or costly.

The OFT will be seeking to explore these and other issues with communities and businesses in remote areas, with the aim of improving its, and others’, understanding of how consumer or competition law can help tackle them.

As part of the project, the OFT will be running workshops with residents in seven locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These include Devon, Northumberland, Shetland, Highland, Gwynedd, Bridgend and County Tyrone. The locations have been chosen to reflect the diverse nature of the UK’s remote communities and to include coastal, inland, island and mainland areas, and those with varied socio-demographic profiles.

The OFT will also look at evidence and experience from across the entire UK and will explore how other countries address specific market issues arising in isolated communities.

Kyla Brand, OFT Director, said: “Geography and population density can have a major impact on the cost and accessibility of goods and services to consumers, and on how businesses operate. We want to get a clearer picture of these issues and understand and explain some of the reasons behind them. We also want to explore what the OFT, or other bodies could do to reduce the downsides, and maximise the benefits of remoteness.”

Consumers and businesses wishing to contribute to the study are requested to send their views before 20 April to the OFT Office in Scotland, 23 Walker Street, Edinburgh EH3 7HX, fill in an online form available from www.oft.gov.uk/remcom or email remotecommunities@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

The OFT expects to publish the outcome of this call for evidence by July.

 

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