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The OFT closed on 31 March 2014 and this website is no longer being updated.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.

What we do

The OFT's mission is to make markets work well for consumers. Markets work well when businesses are in open, fair and vigorous competition with each other for the consumer's custom. Our job is to make sure that consumers have as much choice as possible across all the different sectors of the marketplace. When consumers have choice they have genuine and enduring power.

We pursue this goal by:

  • encouraging businesses to comply with competition and consumer law and to improve their trading practices through self-regulation
  • acting decisively to stop hardcore or flagrant offenders
  • studying markets and recommending action where required
  • empowering consumers with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices and get the best value from markets.

As an independent professional organisation, the OFT plays a leading role in promoting and protecting consumer interests throughout the UK, while ensuring that businesses are fair and competitive. Our tools to carry out this work are the powers granted to the OFT under consumer and competition legislation.

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Benefits of our work

We improve the welfare of consumers by working to bring about competitive and efficient markets, by thwarting deceptive and coercive trading practices, and by empowering consumers with the knowledge and skills they need to make rational and informed buying decisions. As a result, consumers benefit from improved value, choice and quality in products and services, and are much less likely to encounter problems..

When markets are working well, good businesses benefit too. They are protected from cartels, abusive monopolies and inappropriate regulations, and can reap the rewards of delivering what consumers want.

The wider economy also thrives as competitive markets encourage greater productivity and innovation. Because of this, the OFT's financial contribution to the economy far exceeds our cost to the taxpayer.

View details of our extensive program of evaluation.

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We gather intelligence about markets and trader behaviour from a wide range of sources and we respond to super-complaints about markets from designated consumer bodies. Where we spot potential problems, we undertake market studies and recommend or take further action where it is needed.

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In order to make the best use of our resources in terms of real outcomes for UK consumers, we need to ensure that we make appropriate decisions about which projects and programmes of work we undertake across all areas of our responsibility.  We consider a range of factors including impact on consumers, strategic significance, risks and resources. We also take account of the activity, capacity and interests of our partners.

Download OFT Prioritisation Principles (pdf 120 kb)

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Preventing harm in the first place is better for consumers than taking enforcement action afterwards. One of the ways we do this is by equipping consumers and businesses with the knowledge they need to protect themselves against unlawful practice.

We also encourage businesses to improve their trading practices by educating them about their duties under the law and by encouraging self-regulation.

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The OFT achieves its aims through collaboration with others. Our partners include sector regulators, Government, the courts, the Competition Commission, the European Commission, Local Authority Trading Standards Services, and businesses, consumers and their representatives.

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We are committed to assessing our performance against our aims and objectives and to evaluating the financial benefits we deliver to consumers and the economy as a whole. For more information, see our annual reports.

Back to: About the OFT

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