Attendees and apologies
- Jamie Hepburn MSP - Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills (Chair)
- Arianna Andreangeli
- Brendan Dick
- Phil Evans
- Peter Freeman
- Neil Ritchie - Scottish Government
- Sue Kearns - Scottish Government
- Wendy McCutcheon – Scottish Government (Secretariat)
- Sonia Brown – as we were unable to secure dial in facilities in the Scottish Parliament
- Fiona Richardson
- Susan McPhee
- Jo Armstrong
- Liam Delaney
Items and actions
1. Chair’s welcome
The Minister welcomed everyone and thanked members for their continued participation in the meetings. He also noted that since the last meeting Shabnum Mustapha had tendered her apologies as she had moved to Manchester to a new job. The Minister recorded his appreciation to Shabnum for her contribution towards the work of the Taskforce.
Neil Ritchie was introduced as the new head of the Consumer and Competition Policy Unit.
2. Agree minutes and action points of previous meeting
The minutes from the meeting of 25 June 2019 had been agreed by correspondence with all action points having been completed. The minutes had already been published on the Scottish Government website.
3. A new consumer network for Scotland
The Minister introduced this session by stating that the Scottish Parliament’s Committee for Economy, Energy and Fair Work was nearing its completion of Stage 1 of the consideration of the Consumer Scotland Bill. The Minister had given evidence to the Committee the previous week and the Committee’s Stage 1 report was expected to be published by the end of the year. Whilst all the Parliamentary progress carries on, work needs to continue on the Scottish consumer landscape.
This agenda item was to discuss the need for a Scottish consumer network, similar to the UK Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP), of which the Scottish Government is a member. The UK CPP identifies and prioritises areas where there is greatest harm caused to consumers and co-ordinates action. It is envisaged that a Scottish network would have a similar role alongside supporting Consumer Scotland.
The Minister opened up the agenda item for discussion asking members for their thoughts on this potential new consumer network.
High level points from the discussion included:
- It was agreed that there was a need for a network which would provide maximum impact with minimum duplication. The benefit of a Scottish specific network was the size of the country and the ability to draw together all organisations round a table.
- Membership of this group was discussed in detail. The UK CPP has membership restricted to government-funded consumer bodies however it is anticipated that the Scottish network could be extended to include a variety of different bodies including charities, third sector, public and those bodies with reserved and devolved powers. The membership could be fluid depending of what particular issue was being looked at.
- Will there be a need for data-sharing amongst this network? If so how will this be carried out?
- It may be beneficial to look at examples of where anything similar is happening to address harms eg the SEPA work on environmental harms with partners such as Police Scotland
The Minister thanked the group for a very interesting discussion and advised that Scottish Government officials would reflect on this discussion.
4. Consumer Scotland data strategy working group
The Minister provided an overview of the Consumer Scotland data strategy working group (WG) explaining that it had been established to support the design and development of a robust and secure consumer intelligence system to allow Consumer Scotland to have a database which it can utilise from Day 1. This WG will not gather data or evidence. It will instead suggest mechanisms, make proposals and recommendations, and, ideally, produce some form of blueprint for the new consumer body.
Membership of this group is varied including consumer and ombudsman organisations. The second meeting of this group has been arranged for 5 December.
The ask for the Taskforce was to consider if they had any thoughts on consumer markets insights; information / gaps that may be required to be considered by the WG; what any definition of consumer detriment / harm should/should not encompass and how to capture data from actual consumers rather than consumer organisations.
The initial thought of Taskforce members was that collecting data was only one part of the narrative – what the data tells us is even more important.
The Minister asked if Consumer Scotland was indeed well placed to take forward this work. There was a mixed response to this answer with the caveat being that there needs to be specialist staff who can understand and interpret the data. There already exists specialist panels, academic advisory committees, etc that could potentially work with Consumer Scotland in this area.
It was noted that it hard to get information direct from consumers. However organisations such as CAS and Advice Direct Scotland already take on real consumer issues and this is one way in which data can be captured from consumers.
The Taskforce concluded that overall there needs to be trust put into the new consumer body to go about its business.
5. Any other business
The Minister highlighted to the group that this Taskforce had been established to be operational for two years with the purpose of supporting the development of Consumer Scotland. The group had now reached the end of the two year period and had seemed to have come to a natural conclusion – especially now that the Consumer Scotland data working group had been established and following on from the discussion at agenda item 3 on the establishment of a new consumer network for Scotland.
The Minister sought views from group members. All agreed that the Taskforce had now come to its natural conclusion.
The Minister thanked all members for their invaluable input especially around the shaping of Consumer Scotland and the consumer duty.