- 13 Dec 2018
Attendees and apologies
- Jamie Hepburn MSP - Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills (Chair)
- Arianna Andreangeli – University of Edinburgh
- Jo Armstrong – Business Economist
- Sonia Brown – Visa Europe
- Brendan Dick – BT Scotland
- Phil Evans – Independent Consultant
- Susan McPhee - Citizens Advice Scotland
- Shabnum Mustapha – Advertising Standards Authority
- Kersti Berge - Scottish Government
- Lorraine King - Scottish Government
- Wendy McCutcheon – Scottish Government (Secretariat)
- Liam Delaney – University College Dublin
- Peter Freeman – Competition Appeal Tribunal
- Fiona Richardson – Trading Standards Scotland
Items and actions
1. Welcome and Introductions
The Minister welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Ministerial Taskforce on Consumers and Markets. This was Mr Hepburn’s first meeting following the Ministerial reshuffle. He stated that Keith Brown had established this Taskforce and committed to chairing it as he recognised that consumer fairness has to be as important a part of this Government’s Fairer Scotland agenda as dignity for workers is or respect for social security users is. The Minister emphasised that although there had been a change in Chair, the commitment and the motivation hasn’t. Kersti Berge was then introduced. Kersti had recently joined the Scottish Government as Chris Stark’s replacement as Director of Energy and Climate Change.
The Minister explained that at the last Taskforce meeting, members had challenged the Scottish Government to really consider the consumer and how we could make things better for them. Scottish Government officials had considered this and decided that we need to step back and refocus the work of the Taskforce to allow us to develop a strategy and tools that will enable us to drive real change regardless of the project. The Minister stated that we all need to work together to achieve this and with the Taskforce’s combined expertise, we could develop better methods to prevent, identify and tackle consumer harm in the long term. The project pipeline work will still continue and update papers will be provided. If members wish to become involved in any of the projects, their input would be very welcome.
The Minister highlighted that the Consumer Scotland consultation closes on 28 September 2018 and if members had not already responded they are urged to do so. The Minister concluded his opening remarks by stressing that this Taskforce was about collaboration and that the Scottish Government cannot and should not develop or implement any policy unilaterally. He urged all Taskforce members to join the Scottish Government on this ambitious journey to raise the profile of consumers and fundamentally change the way consumer issues are viewed and tackled in Scottish policy making.
There then followed roundtable introductions with apologies being noted.
2. Scottish Government Update
Kersti Berge introduced herself as the new Director of Energy and Climate Change having joined the Scottish Government from Ofgem. Kersti provided a brief background to Taskforce members stating that she was delighted to be part of this group.
Kersti reiterated that consumers need to be at the centre of policy making in Scotland and policy needs to be flexible, able to anticipate change, be of help to consumers; and have an ability to react to unintended consequences. Kersti outlined that the Consumer Scotland consultation includes a question on whether there should be a statutory duty to consider the impacts of public policy and decision making on consumers and that the Taskforce would be asked to assist as this is developed.
Another role for the Taskforce is supporting the development of Consumer Scotland. Kersti took the opportunity to stress how important it is that we get the delivery right and while we don’t want to constrain the body too much, we need to ensure that it has got a framework in place to enable it to start delivering almost as soon as it is established.
3. Agree minutes and action points of previous meeting
The minutes from the meeting on 8 February 2018 were agreed and approved. All action points have either been completed or are underway. The minutes will now be published on the Scottish Government website.
4. Roundtable discussions on Consumer Scotland and Consumer-focused approach to policy making
This agenda item was the main topic of discussion for today’s meeting and focused on two projects. The first project to be discussed was the new proposed body, Consumer Scotland. The Minister introduced this session by stating that in the 2016 Manifesto, this Government promised to create a consumer body to represent the interests of consumers in Scotland to ensure a fairer and more inclusive economy and that he remained committed to delivering this. He also reiterated that the Consumer Scotland consultation closes on 28 September 2018 and urged all to respond and for them to encourage their networks to also respond as the wider the participation the better overview the Scottish Government gains.
Lorraine King then set out the context of the Consumer Scotland paper and highlighted that as the Taskforce has a remit to provide strategic advice and oversight to the development of consumer and competition policy, the Scottish Government would like the Taskforce to play a leading role in shaping the role of Consumer Scotland. There are three key themes that require careful consideration prior to the establishment of this body and these are:
- the impact of Consumer Scotland on the existing landscape.
- remit and resources of Consumer Scotland.
- Consumer Scotland in practice.
There then followed a wide ranging discussion on the paper with key points being the need for robust evidence, whether there is a need to define what a consumer is, what is consumer detriment, whether there is a need to define what Consumer Scotland is trying to solve, and where the gaps are in the current market that this new body could fill. The role of Consumer Scotland was then discussed in detail with members discussing a wide range of issues including the type of benchmark being set and the projected consumer outcome along with the need to be clear about what is expected to be achieved along with the need for guidance to be provided.
Consumer-focused approach to policy making
Discussion then moved on to the consumer focused approach to policy making. The Minister introduced this session by re-emphasising that this Government is developing a proactive consumer strategy to raise the profile of consumers and place them at the heart of Scottish policy making. By doing this it will fundamentally change the way consumer issues are viewed and tackled in policy and decision making. The Minister stated that he hoped that the Taskforce will play a leading role in shaping the Scottish consumer approach between now and March 2020.
Lorraine then provided a further update stating that consumer and public authority action are linked. Many of the Scottish Government’s most important priorities such as increasing energy efficiency to encouraging business to pay the living wage depend on consumer acceptance, co-operation and often, behavioural change. Thus, not only can our policies materially impact the lives of consumers, consumer willingness to embrace our policies can determine their success. Consumer fairness is an important part of the Scottish Government’s work to build a Fairer Scotland. This means tackling some of the systemic issues that harm consumers or contribute to unequal outcomes, such as those who live in poverty paying more for essential goods and services. Lorraine then stated the focus for the next six months will be evidence gathering and developing options on whether the Scottish Government should introduce a consumer duty for public bodies.
The meeting focused on the rationale for a consumer duty and as with the discussion on Consumer Scotland, there was a wide ranging discussion on the paper. The main issue was around how this duty would be enforced and what value would actually be added by putting in a statutory duty. It was however a good opportunity to do something differently and sets a clear signal that organisations need to consider consumers in their policy making at the start of the process and the need to consider what areas could be impacted. It entails being accountable in its widest sense.
The Minister brought this session to a close by stating that these discussions had been worthwhile and very informative. He suggested that it could be useful to hold another meeting before March to discuss these issues further. This was agreed.
It was also suggested that Taskforce members are given more “homework” between meetings.
It was agreed that members would be sent the Consumer Scotland consultation analysis when it was available.
5. Update from members
There were no updates from members.
6. Any other business
There was no other business.
7. Date and time of next meeting
The Chair thanked all members for attending and for their contributions to the meeting. The next scheduled meeting of the Taskforce has been arranged for 19 March 2019 in St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh from 10 am until 12 noon although Secretariat would now arrange an earlier meeting as discussed during this meeting.
Upload minutes to SG website
Arrange date for meeting before Christmas recess break.
To share responses to the Consumer Scotland consultation
To highlight Consumer Scotland consultation throughout their networks.
To complete the Consumer Scotland consultation.
Telephone: 0131 244 1210
Consumer, Competition and Regulatory Policy Unit
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