Our Fresh thinking series is designed to promote debate and spark ideas on policies that can benefit consumers. The pamphlets do not necessarily represent Consumer Focus policy positions.
Hard times or our mutual friend? An alternative future for Trading Standards
Trading Standards has long been an important part of the consumer landscape, enforcing some of the nation’s oldest – but still highly relevant – pieces of consumer law.
Hard times or our mutual friend explores the future of trading standards in light of spending cuts, the Government’s new empowerment strategy and changing consumer power.
Regulated industries and consumers
There has never been a greater need for the interests of consumers to be effectively represented. Vital and urgent plans to modernise the national infrastructure for energy, water, rail, communications and airports require some £200 billion of private sector investment by 2016 – the equivalent of building more than four Olympics every year. These costs will
be passed, in whole or in part, to customers who face unprecedented increases in bills and charges.
Regulated industries and consumers sets out the arguments in favour of strong consumer representation in sectors of the economy subject to economic regulation. It also makes the case for maximising synergies available from working across sectors. This would allow consumer representation in specifc markets to beneft in full from best (and learn from worst) practices in other sectors and from understanding cross-sectoral issues such as consumer vulnerability, charging structures, and redress.
A cross-sectoral approach would maximise the knowledge and skills needed to engage effectively with Government, the EU, industry, regulators and consumers.
Unleashing the new consumer power
It used to be said that people in Britain just meekly accepted mediocre service and poor-quality products. But change is in the air.
A new breed of more active, powerful consumers is emerging, people who are willing to throw their weight around when they need to. They are happy to work with smart businesses to help them improve and innovate. They will reward the good guys (through their spending of £873 billion a year) as well as penalising the bad guys.
The growing confidence among consumers that they can take on big business and win, increasingly isn’t about action by established organisations. Rather, we’ve seen individual action by a new breed of ‘citizen enforcers’, and change being driven by instinctive consumer outrage and the desire to improve things. Unleashing the new consumer power
Regulating in the consumer interest
In recent decades, Britain has been a leader in developing new regulatory models and approaches. But there is now a vibrant debate about where we go from here. Has the so-called ‘regulatory state’ grown too large? Which decisions should elected politicians take and which should be left to regulators? How can the quality of regulatory decision-making be improved? Regulating in the consumer interest
A new energy infrastructure
A new energy infrastructure is a discussion paper by Prashant Vaze, Chief Economist, Consumer Focus and Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK. The cost of keeping warm is a major issue for many households.
As the UK becomes even more dependent on imported gas, and as international supplies run down, the cost of keeping warm is likely to rise further without adequate roll-out of insulation. Scenarios published by Ofgem suggest energy prices might rise by as much as 60 per cent over the next decade. The levies on customer energy bills to fund investment in energy efficiency, energy networks and renewables is already an important share of energy costs, but it will become even more so. A follow up workshop took place in March – Note from workshop