In June 2015, in anticipation of devolution of consumer powers under the 2016 Scotland Act, the Scottish Government established an independent, short-life Working Group for Consumer and Competition Policy in Scotland. Membership was drawn from a wide spectrum of expertise, including Which?, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), Trading Standards Scotland, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) and the Federation of Small Businesses.
This group was asked to consider the optimal arrangements for delivering consumer protection and competition policy in Scotland. It was also tasked with providing recommendations to Scottish Government on specific improvements that could be made to the consumer protection and competition landscape. Its main recommendation was that the Scottish Government establish a public body, underpinned by statute and dedicated to representing the consumer interest in Scotland.
This recommendation was generally well received. In 2016, the SNP manifesto committed to make the most of newly devolved powers and create a consumer body.
We asked for views on a new body called Consumer Scotland, and whether the Scottish Government should develop a statutory duty on Scottish public authorities to improve how consumers are considered during policy and decision-making. We held a public consultation, which was open for 12 weeks from 4 July 2018. During this period we also held a series of events so that regulators, consumer groups and enforcement agencies could share their thoughts.
The Bill to establish Consumer Scotland was introduced to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work on 5 June 2019, and passed on 6 May 2020. The Bill became an Act on 9 June 2020.