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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 17:21 GMT
New clampdown on rogue traders

Beach scene Package holidays will be covered by the directive

The UK Government has unveiled proposals aimed at cracking down on traders who break the law.

The new powers will come through a European directive. The UK Consumer Affairs Minister, Kim Howells, outlined them in a consultation paper.

The main benefit is that injunctions can be taken out against traders to stop them from conning more people.

For example, a holiday company which puts out misleading information in a brochure could be forced to take it off the shelves.

"The current consumer protection legislation deals with past breaches of law. Under this directive, if there is a serious breach of legislation a consumer protection lobby will be able to go to court to stop it in its tracks," said Mr Howells.

Kim Howells Kim Howells: Hopes measures will make traders more responsible
"That is something that the trading standards officers have dreamt of for many years.

"The legislation will be used to tackle unscrupulous traders who are not deterred by the threat of prosecution and fines."

Other areas covered will include doorstep selling, cowboy tradesmen and timeshare touts.

A complaint from just one consumer could be enough to prompt an injunction.

The proposals will also allow European Union member states to seek injunctions against traders in other countries, such as illegal prize draw and internet traders.

The director general of the OFT, John Bridgeman, welcomed the proposals.

'Rip-off Britain'

"I have long been convinced of the benefits of injunctive powers to put an end to breaches which work against consumers' interests," he said.

"I particularly welcome the cross-border nature of the proposals. In a number of areas, such as prize draws, consumers in the UK were misled by material sent by firms based abroad. I look forward to having the powers to do significantly more to put an end to such practices."

The government is campaigning against "rip-off Britain", and current investigations include the cost of cars, soft drinks and hotel phone charges.

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See also:
05 Jan 00 |  Business
'Rip-off' car prices falling
15 Oct 99 |  Business
Do we live in rip-off Britain?
01 Nov 99 |  The Economy
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21 Sep 99 |  Your Money
'Rip-off' estate agents warned
18 Aug 99 |  Your Money
Hard look at soft drink prices
16 Aug 99 |  Your Money
Hotels face blitz over 'rip-off' calls

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