Consumer protection and representation are important because they allow a free market to operate effectively, ensure the vulnerable are protected, guard against unscrupulous traders and put consumers, businesses and local communities at the heart of regulatory decisions.
Economic activity flourishes when consumers can trust businesses, so consumer trust is necessary to ensure a flourishing economy. Good consumer protection systems also protect businesses from rogue trading practices.
An independent Scotland could develop a more integrated, simplified consumer landscape that provides a single point of access through which the people of Scotland can be directed to the support they need. A single consumer body would oversee the provision of high quality, efficient consumer advice and protection which increases trust and transparency and provides confidence and clarity for those in need of assistance.
This unified approach would allow the consumer body to take Scottish specific issues into account in a way that the current fragmented UK arrangements have failed to do.
The unified consumer body would work closely with the two other key regulatory bodies in this area – the sectoral economic regulator and the competition and markets regulator, to ensure that consumer interests are at the heart of the regulatory process.
Indeed, independence creates an opportunity in Scotland for a unified consumer body to be combined with the competition authority, potentially bringing benefits of closer alignment between market arrangements and consumer interests. This system is already being implemented in other countries, such as Ireland and the Netherlands.
Finally, Independence would allow Scotland to create a “one stop shop” Consumer Ombudsman (with the potential exclusion of financial services) where consumers could submit complaints through a single portal and receive fast, simple, accessible redress. This ombudsman would operate separately from the unified consumer body in order to ensure independence.