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04/10 21 January 2010
The OFT has requested information from a number of companies that buy gold from consumers using the postal service to consider whether they are complying with consumer protection legislation.
Following complaints, the OFT has asked the companies to provide information on their business practices and to explain a number of claims made in their advertising and on their websites. Among the OFT's concerns is whether consumers' rights to reject an offer for their gold and receive it back are being honoured in all cases.
The OFT will also be reviewing the companies' terms and conditions to assess whether they are fair for consumers.
Once the OFT receives the requested information, it will consider what further action, if any, is appropriate. At this stage, no assumption should be made that any companies involved in gold buying have broken the law.
Juliet Young, a Director in the OFT's Consumer Market Group said:
'Buying gold using the postal service is a relatively new business model, and while innovation often brings benefits for consumers, we want to check that the market and businesses operating in it are developing in a way that treats customers fairly.'
Although it is not possible for the OFT to intervene directly to resolve issues arising between individual consumers and firms, in this case the OFT would be interested in hearing about consumers' experiences of using the services of companies who buy gold using the postal service. The team can be contacted via the website at www.oft.gov.uk/goldpost.
1. The OFT is seeking information from the five companies using its powers under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. The consumer legislation concerned includes the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.
2. The OFT has not disclosed the names of the companies which are the subject of the requests referred to above. The OFT is considering whether it should change its policy not to name companies at the start of an investigation, following its recent consultation on transparency. See the OFT's consultation on transparency.
3. The OFT will be working closely with local authority Trading Standards Services. If having considered the responses of the companies to the OFT's letters the OFT forms the view that there have been breaches, the OFT or Trading Standards Services may seek an enforcement order under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act, or seek undertakings in lieu of such an order.
4. The OFT does not provide advice or resolve individual complaints for consumers. Consumers who are concerned they have been unfairly treated or want advice on their personal circumstances can contact Consumer Direct (tel: 08454 04 05 06 or visit the Consumer Direct website at www.consumerdirect.gov.uk).
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