The options section of the toolkit stresses the need to consider the impact on the consumer. This section of the toolkit addresses the key challenge of thinking and gathering evidence about the impact on consumers of specific industries, firm types and businesses of different sizes.
The Scottish Government definition of a consumer is “anyone who buys goods or digital content, or uses goods or services either in the private or public sector, now or in the future”.
This goes beyond the traditional idea of a consumer as someone who buys goods from the high street. As a result, consumer interests will be impacted by policies across the Scottish Government, even though it might not be immediately obvious that their interests should be considered. In general, there will be an impact from policy on consumers if the quality, availability or price of goods or services in a market are likely to be affected. There may also be indirect consequences, such as increased opportunities for third parties to take advantage of government initiatives to target consumers whose circumstances make them more vulnerable, or added complexity in a market, which could lead to information asymmetries or make it more difficult for consumers to understand their rights. This in turn can negatively impact businesses that want to obey the rules, either through loss of consumer trust in a sector, or through loss of opportunities should unscrupulous businesses take advantage of consumer protection weaknesses in government policy.
When considering the impact of policies, the effect on consumers whose circumstances make them more vulnerable should be given particular weight. In general, there will be a need to carry out a more in-depth assessment if the answer to any of the following questions is yes:
- Does the policy affect the quality, availability or price of any goods or services in a market?
- Does the policy affect the essential services market, such as energy or water?
- Does the policy involve storage or increased use of consumer data?
- Does the policy increase opportunities for unscrupulous suppliers to target consumers?
- Does the policy impact the information available to consumers on either goods or services, or their rights in relation to these?
- Does the policy affect routes for consumers to seek advice or raise complaints on consumer issues?
Please contact the Consumer and Competition Policy Unit if you need advice or support on this at CompetitionPolicy@gov.scot