Consumer Network for Scotland minutes: September 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the network on 29 September 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Neil Ritchie, Scottish Government (chair)
  • Andrew Bartlett, Advice Direct Scotland
  • Polly Tolley, CAS
  • Eva Groeneveld, CMA
  • Jennifer West, CMA
  • Frazer Scott, Energy Action Scotland
  • Harry Mayers, Energy Saving Trust
  • Laura McGadie, Energy Saving Trust
  • Maggie Craig, FCA
  • Jonny Ruff, Ofcom
  • Ryan McFadden, Ofgem
  • Sarah Chisnall, Ombudsman Services
  • Graeme Paton, Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland
  • Fiona Richardson, Trading Standards Scotland
  • Thomas Docherty, Which?
  • Jeremy Vincent, Scottish Government (Social Researcher)
  • Andrew McConnell, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, attended the first part of the meeting.

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed the attendees and thanked them for attending the first meeting.

Jamie Hepburn MSP - Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills

Mr Hepburn thanked those attending for agreeing to take part in the network. He thanked them for all the work that their organisations had been doing supporting consumers and the wider Scottish society around the challenges of COVID-19.

Mr Hepburn explained that once Consumer Scotland is established, the Network will be able to work closely with it in exchanging information and providing mutual support, but that the group will remain independent. He asked the group to ensure that it becomes as effective as possible in discussing and coordinating consumer protection activities in Scotland.

National Consumer Research

The need for a good understanding of Scottish consumer behaviours and issues was discussed. The Scottish Government is keen to develop a stronger understanding nationally of Scottish consumers and it has been exploring options to do that. In taking this forward, it would like to build on the research expertise and knowledge of the organisations attending, and work together to improve collective understanding.

The group discussed what would be useful in relation to consumer research. There was a view that there is more evidence on consumer issues/concerns and less on consumer attitudes/behaviours, also expressed as more on what consumers think/do/experience and less on why they think it/behave that way.

A two-pronged approach would be useful, with partner organisations synthesising their existing evidence under some key themes in advance of the next meeting (to develop a Scottish consumer evidence base) and development of new research to plug resultant gaps, to be developed after Christmas. Scottish Government agreed to propose a list of areas/questions for the synthesis.

Action 1:

  • Scottish Government to circulate a proposed list of areas/questions for the synthesis for comments

Action 2:

  • partner organisations to synthesise their existing evidence before the next meeting

Organisations’ Response to COVID-19 situation

The group discussed issues that had arisen from their organisations’ perspectives and their views on likely future issues. Themes which emerged included:

  • changes in demand for advice over last six months
  • anticipation of significant increase in demand for advice related to debt issues in future months
  • new scams are emerging and will continue to develop

Parcel delivery charges – an example of actions taken in relation to a Scottish consumer issue

This issue was an example of actions that have been taken in relation to a consumer issue of particular relevance to Scotland.  It is issues like this where it is anticipated the group will be able to add value in the future. The group discussed work they had been involved in relating to the issue.


The group should focus on things that would make a difference to the work of organisations in identifying and tackling consumer harm in Scotland. Suggestions from the group would be welcome on how the Network can add value to the work of those attending. Duplication of existing work should be avoided. The work of the group will help to ensure that Consumer Scotland can be as effective as possible when it starts.

It was agreed that the Network would meet quarterly.

Action 3:

  • Scottish Government to arrange next meeting of the Network in December
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