Consumers have a vital role to play in making markets work well. Skilled, confident and knowledgeable consumers are an important driver of competition. By communicating their needs clearly and making informed purchasing decisions, they drive competitive businesses to provide high standards of goods and services.
The OFT has a number of tools available to help consumers fulfil this vital role. Consumer initiatives such as our scams awareness work help develop consumer skills and raise awareness and understanding of important consumer issues. The Consumer Codes Approval Scheme and local authority assured trader schemes work with business to ensure that consumers can identify trustworthy traders - and find high quality information about the goods and services that they provide.
Working directly with consumers can be a flexible and cost-effective alternative to enforcement action. The OFT is committed to using consumer initiatives to support the supply side of the market as part of its new, whole-market approach to working.
From 2 April 2013, under changes to the consumer protection regime introduced by Government, there will be a greater role for the local authority Trading Standards Services in the enforcement of consumer protection law at national level. The OFT will retain all of its current consumer enforcement powers but will tend to use them where breaches of consumer protection law point to systemic failures in a market. This means cases will more often be taken against a number of firms in a market, rather than cases against individual firms, unless changing the behaviour of one firm would set a precedent or have other market-wide implications.
The OFT will also retain the lead role for the enforcement of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 although the Trading Standards Services will have equal enforcement powers.
In the first instance consumers are encouraged to contact Citizens Advice regarding any problems they may have in buying goods or services.