5. Consumer Scotland Act 2020
The Act establishes Consumer Scotland, and gives it a general function of providing consumer advocacy and advice with a view to achieving specific outcomes. These are:
- reducing consumer harm in Scotland,
- increasing the confidence of consumers in Scotland in dealing with businesses supplying goods and services,
- increasing the extent to which consumer matters are taken into account by public authorities in Scotland,
- promoting sustainable consumption of natural resources, and other environmentally sustainable practices, in relation to the acquisition, use and disposal of goods by consumers in Scotland, and
- otherwise advancing inclusion, fairness and prosperity and other aspects of wellbeing in Scotland.
For the purposes of Consumer Scotland's functions, a consumer is an individual, or a business no larger than a small business, that purchases, uses or receives goods or services in Scotland, where those goods or services are supplied in the course of a business. It should be noted that it is only where a small business is the purchaser in a transaction that they are a "consumer"; not when they are acting as the seller or provider of goods or services.
Whilst "traditional" consumer matters, such as a problem with a faulty device, are included in the definition, it also includes, for example, a disposal or recycling service. Consumer is also defined to include potential consumers. This means, for example, that Consumer Scotland could investigate practices which deter would-be consumers from pursuing a transaction.
A person may be a vulnerable consumer when circumstances cause that person to have fewer options, or to be more at risk of harm, than a typical consumer – for example by virtue of age, mental or physical health, economic circumstances, geography, caring responsibilities, or because of a bereavement. The characteristics or circumstances which may result in a person being a vulnerable consumer may be short-term, long-term or permanent.
Across all its work, Consumer Scotland has to consider the interests of vulnerable consumers. You can find out more at: Consumer Scotland Act 2020 - Explanatory Notes (legislation.gov.uk).