New consumer body must avoid duplication says Holyrood Committee

27.12.2019

The Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee has today approved the general principles of a bill which seeks to strengthen the rights of consumers in Scotland through the creation of a new public body.

The Consumer Scotland Bill seeks to establish a new statutory body with responsibility for strengthening consumer advocacy and advice. It hopes to do this by identifying how and why consumers experience harm in Scotland and proposing solutions to mitigate this harm.

The Committee heard evidence which highlighted concern that much of the work proposed for the new body may already be being done by other organisations. It was shown that more detail about the form and functions of the new proposed body was needed to ensure there is no duplication of work.

Committee Convener, Gordon Lindhurst MSP said:

“The majority of evidence that the Committee received showed support for the creation of a new consumer body which would in turn raise the profile of issues that directly relate to consumers.

“However, the Scottish Government must ensure that this new body operates in a way that strengthens and doesn’t impede the current work of existing bodies. We saw concern from bodies such as Citizens Advice Scotland that their role could be weakened.

“It was noted in our evidence sessions that a risk of overlap between the work of Consumer Scotland and other Scottish bodies, such as trading standards, could develop and therefore the Committee would welcome a statement from the Minister setting out how this would be avoided.

Background

Consumer Scotland would have the following overarching aims:

Reducing harm to consumers in Scotland;

Increasing confidence among consumers among consumers in Scotland in dealing with businesses that supply goods and services to consumers; and

Increasing the extent to which consumers matters are taken into account by public bodies in Scotland.

The Bill’s provisions would establish Consumer Scotland as a body which:

  • Is accountable to the Scottish Parliament;
  • Must use its powers in a collaborative way;
  • Must specifically consider the needs of vulnerable consumers;
  • Has powers to require certain bodies to provide information.

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