Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

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

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.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Your Money Contents

Relevant Stories

20 Jul 99†|†The Economy
Car makers 'fixing prices'

08 Jul 99†|†UK Politics
MPs back cheaper designer goods

30 Jun 99†|†The Economy
The 'Great British car rip-off'

17 Jun 99†|†The Economy
Competition watchdog begins to bite

10 Mar 99†|†The Company File
Wiping out the rip-offs

10 Jun 99†|†The Economy
Price shock for UK shoppers

08 Feb 99†|†The Company File
Do supermarket customers get a raw deal?

16 Sep 98†|†UK
Public homes in on cowboy builders

Internet Links

Department of Trade and Industry

Which? Online

The Consumer Gateway

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

The growing threat of internet fraud

Online share dealing triples

Maxwell pledge to pensioners

Insolvent firms to get breathing space

Building society offers £1,000 windfalls

Financial services plan for millions

Why banks love online customers

Help for the 'financially excluded'

Abbey, Halifax raise mortgage rates

Banks accused of sharp practice

Endowment holders 'may win payouts'