Written evidence can be submitted until 13th March. Members might like to consider responding. See here for more, and details on how to respond. According to the guidance “Your submission should address matters contained within the Bill and concentrate on issues where you have a special interest or expertise, and factual information of which you would like the Committee to be aware. It is helpful if the submission includes a brief introduction about you or your organisation. The submission should not have been previously published or circulated elsewhere.”
This bill is aimed at simplifying and clarifying consumer rights, streamlining and bringing together the complex mix of consumer protection legislation which currently exists. If it is simpler for consumers to understand their rights and responsibilities, they may be more likely to exercise them effectively.
Consumers will be able to:
get some money back after 1 failed repair of faulty goods (or 1 faulty replacement)
demand that substandard services are redone or failing that get a price reduction
a set 30 day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund
challenge terms and conditions which aren’t fair or are hidden in the small-print: for example airlines charging baggage fees will have to make them really clear when consumers are booking to avoid legal challenge
Digital content is included for the first time.
Citizens Advice strongly welcomed the bill, calling for minor adjustments only. In particular they want collective redress provision to extend to all unfair practices, not just competition cases as currently proposed. See here for a Parliamentary Briefing from them on the Bill.
Low levels of consumer switching characterise many essential services markets (think current accounts or energy suppliers) and mean that competition alone isn’t sufficient to drive improvements. Two new reports from Consumer Futures have tackled this issue head on, introducing the concept of a new form of intermediary.
Next Generation Intermediaries (NGIs) are services that enable consumers to get better outcomes from complex markets by doing very little themselves – effectively outsourcing engagement to a new kind of intermediary service that works on their behalf. They would empower any consumer who lacks the time or inclination to trawl around for a better energy, financial services, or mobile phone package to instruct the intermediary find the offer that best meets the consumer’s declared criteria, and then to instigate and oversee the switch for them.
Let’s call it ‘do it for me’. It envisages a world where any consumer who lacks the time or inclination to trawl around for a better energy, financial services, or mobile phone package can instruct a new kind of intermediary service to ‘do it for me’. What’s more, once that service identifies the offer that best meets a consumer’s declared criteria, the consumer can again say ‘do it for me’ and have the service instigate and oversee the switch to the provider of that offer. And the consumer can then keep saying ‘do it for me’ in relation to related services that require decision support.
This paper provides an overview of the Next Generation Intermediary (NGI) concept – outlining the potential that NGI type services offer and the qualities that set them apart from established intermediary services. It provides an overview of how NGIs would work in practice, the technological trends that make this kind of approach possible now, and some thoughts on who might come to offer NGI services.