Thursday, 6 February 2014

Consumer Advice

Back in the 1970s some councils put resources and great efforts into helping consumers deal with those who would try to fleece them. I believe that that was the right thing to do. If you believe in the positive value of competition - information is key to its effectiveness. Bad traders and scammers get pushed out and honest, reputable businesses that respect their consumers can thrive. {though 'Gresham's law' does note the tendency for the bad to drive out the good - free markets on their own - in practice, don't deliver the access to information needed for markets to function properly}.

Sadly most Trading Standards Departments are a shadow of their former selves - and well resourced, convenient, consumer information centres are now a thing of the past. Sadly the interests of those who would deny information and protection to consumers have triumphed.

Some services are provided by overstretched bodies such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux, and Trading Standards Departments (County or Unitary Authorities) do still exist. Complaints can be made about wrongful behaviour - and I'd urge people not to suffer in silence - but give Trading Standards Departments the information and evidence they need to put bad traders out of business. The Office of Fair Trading can investigate bad practice. You can read how the OFT and Trading Standards departments worked together to deal with bad practice by
United Carpets Group and Hope & Nixon ('Floorstogo' website)
Hamsard (who were breaching competition law in relation to the supply of prescription medicines to care homes throughout England.)

There's an excellent set of resources available at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/professionals/education/education_resources.htm