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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK


Business: Your Money

End to 'rip-off Britain'

Volvo recently admitted price-fixing in the UK

Cowboy firms which scam customers could be shut down "within hours" under a major overhaul of consumer protection laws announced on Thursday.


The BBC's Karen Bowerman: "Fraudulent firms could face almost immediate closure"
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said an extra £30m would be made available to trading standards officers to tackle rogue traders.

Trading standards officers will be given greater powers to act swiftly when they uncover evidence that customers are being cheated.

Consumer Affairs Minister Dr Kim Howells told the Commons: "Our aim is to give trading standards officers the powers to hit rogue traders very quickly and very effectively.


[ image:  ]
"They know who the villains are on their patch and we will give them the power to take out injunctions to stop individuals or companies trading.

"Where there are serious offences, I want to see them stopped in hours."

The White Paper also contain details of planned legislation on Internet shopping to increase public confidence in Online shopping.

It will introduce a "digital hallmark" to identify traders who guarantee security of payment and privacy of information.


Consumer Affairs minister Kim Howells
A government Website, giving consumer information and advice, launches on Thursday at www.consumer.gov.uk.

Other proposals include:

  • A kitemark for companies which have signed up to a code of practice

  • Publication of international price comparisons to ensure shoppers in the UK get a fair deal

  • A new advice network to ensure the public is well informed on its rights

  • Ensuring clearer pricing and goods descriptions

  • A rolling review of all consumer protection legislation

Price comparisons

Stephen Byers said: "We need to recognise that many people feel they are living in rip-off Britain - paying high prices for shoddy goods, with cheats being allowed to prosper and move with ease from one scam to another."


Stephen Byers: "The proposals will put the consumer centre stage"
He said customers needed to be given more confidence to know their rights and get things remedied.

He said: "We don't want to create an army of Victor Meldrews, but we do need more confident and informed consumers."

An international survey of price differences will be undertaken to see why many goods cost more in the UK than abroad.

A series of independent shopping basket surveys and price comparisons revealed that shoppers on the continent and in the US could buy identical foods, clothes and cars for up to 40% less than in the UK.

The industry regulators for gas, electricity, water, telecommunications and rail, as well as the Office of Fair Trading, will also be given new powers.





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