A Dedicated Consumer Protection Body
The Working Group's primary recommendation was that the Scottish Government should create a new, statutory public body to ensure that the voice of Scottish consumers is heard by policy makers, business, public services, regulators and governments. The Working Group recommended that this body should be independent, with clear lines of accountability to the Scottish Parliament. It suggested that the new body should be called 'Consumer Scotland'.
The Working Group recognised the need for Consumer Scotland to work in partnership with other parts of the consumer landscape to ensure a strategic approach to the provision of consumer advocacy, advice, enforcement and redress to make it easy for consumers of all demographics to access the right help when they need it. It recommended that Consumer Scotland should have the ability to gather and share information from a range of organisations to detect and prevent harm and to support businesses in continuous improvement. It also considered the powers of, and duties placed on, other consumer protection bodies.
Finally, the Working Group recommended that the Scottish Government should consider whether there may be benefits in having a dedicated Consumer Minister.
Scottish Government's response
Prior to the referendum, and following extensive work with consumer and competition experts, the Scottish Government concluded that a unified consumer and competition body would be the most efficient way for an independent Scotland to reduce the fragmentation and complexity of the existing landscape. In light of the new powers now being devolved via the Scotland Bill (as amended), the Scottish Government tasked the Working Group with considering the policy options afresh.
We are grateful for the Working Group's thoughtful consideration of the case for establishing a dedicated consumer protection body and welcome its recommendations on the body's role and purpose. We note its analysis that a statutory body which is resourced and empowered to be a strong consumer advocate, and which strengthens links across the four pillars of consumer protection and competition policy, would improve outcomes for consumers in Scotland. In particular, we agree with its assessment that establishing practical mechanisms to gather and share information from across the consumer landscape is critical in binding all four pillars together.
- Given the clear steer from the Working Group, we are working with stakeholders to consider the possible form and functions of a dedicated consumer protection body for Scotland.
- We are committed to working with stakeholders to identify practical solutions to gathering and sharing information data and, in doing so, uniting the four consumer protection pillars in Scotland.
- We intend to establish a Scottish consumer protection partnership, bringing together delivery partners and ensuring multi-agency collaboration on issues such as information sharing.
- We are examining whether consumer issues might be a dedicated brief of a Scottish Minister or whether appointing a designated consumer champion could deliver greater benefits.
Email: Chris Park, firstname.lastname@example.org