1. The Scotland Act (2016) transferred new powers relating to three key areas. First, competence for consumer advocacy and advice. Second, giving the right to Scottish Ministers to act with the UK Secretary of State to refer a market for investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that competition within a market is being prevented, restricted or distorted. Third, devolution of the Competition Appeal Tribunals to the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service.
2. There is evidence that in specific markets, Scottish consumers behave differently and have different needs from consumers in the rest of the UK, although there is currently no mechanism that delivers improved, targeted outcomes specifically for Scottish consumers. In June 2015, the Working Group on Consumer and Competition Policy for Scotland was established. The remit of the Working Group - supported by five Expert Panels - was to consider optimal arrangements for the consumer protection and competition landscapes and to advise the Scottish Government (SG) on how best to deliver their vision for consumers. The report of the Working Group, published in November 2015, recommended the establishment of a new statutory body in Scotland to support consumers. In response to this report, the SG set out seven key actions aimed at protecting consumers and competition, including working with partners to strengthen consumer support and ensuring Scotland has competitive and fair markets.
3. This new statutory body to support consumers formed part of the SNP 2016 manifesto commitment and it was envisaged this would be an investigatory body, focusing on tackling issues where there is a high level of consumer detriment, and which will need concerted and collaborative action to address.
4. On 4 July 2018, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills launched 'A consultation on A Consumer Body for Scotland' seeking views on the proposed powers and functions of this new statutory body - Consumer Scotland. The consultation also invited views on general Scottish Government policy for consumers, including providing more holistic advice services, improving the impact of consumer advocacy and increasing the consideration of consumer interests in public policy-making, potentially through development of a statutory duty for public authorities in Scotland. The consultation closed on 28 September 2018.
5. A total of 58 responses were received: 43 from organisations and 15 from individuals.
6. Respondents were assigned to respondent groupings in order to enable analysis of any differences or commonalities across or within the various different types of organisations and individuals that responded.
7. A list of all those organisations that submitted a response to the consultation and agreed to have their name published is included in Appendix 1.
8. The following table shows the numbers of responses in each analysis group. The largest organisation sub-group was advice body/consumer org/complaint resolution, with smaller numbers in other sub-groups.
|Advice body/consumer org/complaint resolution||18|
|Local Authority/trading standards||5|
9. Responses to the consultation were submitted using the Scottish Government consultation platform Citizen Space or by email or hard copy.
10. It should be borne in mind that the number responding at each question is not always the same as the number presented in the respondent group table. This is because not all respondents addressed all questions; some commented only on those questions or sections of relevance to their organisation, sector or field of interest. The report indicates the number of respondents who commented at each question.
11. The researchers examined all comments made by respondents and noted the range of issues mentioned in responses, including reasons for opinions, specific examples or explanations, alternative suggestions or other comments. Grouping these issues together into similar themes allowed the researchers to identify whether any particular theme was specific to any particular respondent group or groups.
12. When looking at group differences however, it must be also borne in mind that where a specific opinion has been identified in relation to a particular group or groups, this does not indicate that other groups did not share this opinion, but rather that they simply did not comment on that particular point.
13. While the consultation gave all who wished to comment an opportunity to do so, given the self-selecting nature of this type of exercise, any figures quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the respondent sample.
14. A small number of verbatim comments, from those who gave permission for their responses to be made public, have been used in the report to illustrate themes or to provide extra detail for some specific points.
Email: Erin McCreadie