Vulnerable Consumers, Growth Target of OFT’s Proposals

Jack Humphrey, Regulatory journalist
November 15, 2011 /

Making markets work well for consumers, especially the vulnerable and those affected by the tough economic climate, while helping to drive economic growth, are proposed as central priorities by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The OFT is seeking comments on its draft Annual Plan for 2012-13, which sets out the organisation’s proposed objectives and priorities for the next financial year.

The OFT wants to achieve this through focusing further resources on high impact consumer and competition enforcement, while also continuing to use advice, guidance, advocacy and awareness-raising to change the behaviour of consumers, businesses and Government.

It will continue to make full use of its combined consumer and competition tools, and plans to drive forward further improvements to the consumer, competition and credit regimes.

In the next two years, the OFT plans to focus on its work on market problems affecting vulnerable consumers, working closely with local authority Trading Standards Services and consumer groups.

The OFT will similarly tackle businesses that are creating unnecessarily complex pricing structures or reducing the clarity of their product offering.

Another focus is on improving trust in online markets, including action that promotes awareness of consumers’ rights, shapes emerging online business models, or reinforces the integrity of online tools aimed at helping consumers evaluate choices.

Further, the focus of OFT’s work includes high innovation markets and business models, and the intersection of consumer and competition policy with intellectual property rights, and public services markets, providing constructive advice to the Government where these are opened up, to help frame and deliver markets that work well for users and taxpayers.

The draft plan has been developed in the context of a spending review, which reduces the OFT’s budget by 25 per cent over the four years to 2014-15.

The draft Plan includes a strategic objective of improving the OFT’s capability and delivery, working to ensure the OFT is in good shape to meet tighter financial constraints and to maintain the quality of its output despite a declining budget.

The consultation also takes place against a backdrop of proposed changes to the competition, consumer and credit regimes.

The OFT has engaged with the Government to help develop these regime proposals through the benefit of practical experience. As clarity increases over the shape of the proposals the OFT will work to develop effective transition plans where necessary.

 

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