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The OFT closed on 31 March 2014 and this website is no longer being updated. The OFT's work and responsibilities have passed to a number of different bodies. Read more.

Frequently asked questions

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The OFT is closing

OFT closes on 31 March 2014, and its work and responsibilities pass to a number of different bodies.

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What is the Office of Fair Trading and what do you do?

1. The OFT is a non-ministerial government department established in 1973. Our mission is to make markets work well for consumers.

We aim to achieve this by:

  • The enforcement of competition law under the Competition Act 1998.
  • The enforcement of consumer protection legislation in matters that affect consumers in general.
  • Monitoring consumer credit through a licensing system under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

To make the best use of our resources in terms of real outcomes for UK consumers, we need to make sure that we make appropriate decisions about which projects and programmes of work we carry out across all areas of our responsibility. These decisions are based on our Prioritisation Principles.

For more information on our plans please view our annual plan.

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What can't you do?

We cannot:

  • act on behalf of individuals
  • help or intervene in individual disputes
  • advise if a business is being investigated
  • tell you if a trader is good or bad
  • tell you which trader you should use
  • help you to get your money back
  • comment on whether a specific contract or situation is unfair
  • help with academic research
  • comment on studies we are doing beyond what we have said in our public statements, or
  • take enforcement action without a breach of specific legislation.

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Why can't you get involved in individual disputes?

We are bound by the powers given to us in legislation. For example, Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 (OPSI website) restricts the OFT to enforcing legislation only where there has been a breach that affects the collective interests of consumers (see paragraph 9.2 of the Enterprise Act guidelines published by the OFT).

This means that we don't have the powers to get involved in your individual dispute. However, there are people who may be able to help you. For more information, see 'Where can I get advice about a problem I'm having with a particular business?' below.

Although the OFT is unable to act on your behalf, we can act to protect a large number of consumers throughout the UK.

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Where can I get advice about a problem I'm having with a particular business?

You can get advice from Citizens Advice consumer service. The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk - making a complaint or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

See links to some of the organisations we work with.

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How do I complain about a particular business?

You can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service (www.adviceguide.org.uk - making a complaint or 08454 04 05 06) for advice about how to complain about a particular business. They will be able to direct you to regulators such as Ofcom, local authority Trading Standards Services or other bodies who might be able to help.

If you want to report a business that you feel may be unfit to hold a consumer credit licence, please send your concerns in writing to us, indicating if you are happy for us to disclose details to the trader. Your complaint will then be added to any evidence we have about that trader and will help us to decide whether they are fit to hold a licence. Please note that we will not be able to help you with your individual dispute.

If you want to report a scam, please contact Action Fraud which is a dedicated scam reporting service managed by the Police. You can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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Can I make a complaint about a business to the OFT and what happens if I do?

Yes, you can report businesses that are not complying with consumer and competition legislation. We will log your information and then look at the complaints to decide on areas that might require us to monitor traders' activities or to investigate.

However, in general we will use this information as intelligence to give us information on markets, and the activities of companies within these markets, to inform decisions on our enforcement priorities. 

We cannot help you with individual disputes and you will not get an individual investigation of your complaint.

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Can you tell me if a business is good or bad?

No. Please see further information on restrictions on disclosure (OPSI website).

We can, however, direct you to people who can help give consumers a reliable way of finding trustworthy local businesses. These are:

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Can you provide advice to businesses?

We have published guidance for businesses on a number of topics. This guidance is available on our publications page. For information on what we can provide advice on, see question 1 above.

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Do you publish any leaflets or guidance that might assist consumers or businesses?

Yes. These can be downloaded or ordered from our publications section.

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What is a consumer credit licence (CCL) and where can I find out more?

The Consumer Credit Act 1974 requires most businesses that offer goods or services on credit or for hire or lend money or are involved in activities relating to credit or hire to be licensed by the OFT. For information relating to CCLs see the consumer credit licences page.

The OFT has a duty to protect the interests of consumers by monitoring the fitness of those holding or applying for consumer credit licences. You can check and see if a business is licensed by looking at the public register.

If you wish to complain about such a business, please send your concerns to us in writing. Please let us know whether you are happy for us to disclose your details to the trader as we may wish to contact them if we are concerned about similar complaints we have received. Please note that this would only be for the purposes of our investigation of traders' practices and to ensure future compliance for the benefit of all consumers. It would not be on your behalf as we cannot intervene in individual disputes.

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Can I make a complaint about the OFT?

Yes. The OFT aims to deliver an efficient and effective customer service but if you're unhappy with a service that the OFT has provided and you wish to complain, you can do so by writing to the Head of Enquiries. The address and further information can be found in the OFT's complaints procedure section.

If you're unhappy with the response you receive you can contact your local Member of Parliament, who may in turn contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.




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