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TMCNet:  Office of Fair Trading is no more ; Consumer watch [Herald, The (Plymouth, England)]

[April 17, 2014]

Office of Fair Trading is no more ; Consumer watch [Herald, The (Plymouth, England)]

(Herald, The (Plymouth, England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE Office of Fair Trading was created by the Fair Trading Act 1973, piloted swiftly through Parliament by Geoffrey Howe, then a Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, but now no less than The Right Honourable, The Lord Howe of Aberavon CH QC PC.


The OFT has now been closed down. Its work has been split amongst other organisations. For example, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has taken over regulation of the consumer credit market.

They say: "We want you to understand the financial products and services you use, and for firms to be clear about how they could affect your money, savings and investments. "Our role is to regulate financial services firms in the UK, including banks and building societies, mortgage and insurance brokers, and financial advisers. "Find out the latest on financial products and services, how to avoid scams or make a complaint, and what we are doing to change how firms and advisers deal with you." You can 'find out' at http:// www.fca.org.uk.

Let's choose a couple of their targets and see how they get on. For example, around 50,000 consumer credit firms will come under the FCA's remit, of which around 200 are payday lenders. One of the first actions the FCA has promised to take is to carry out a review looking at how high-cost, short-term lenders treat their customers when they are in difficulty.

Citizens Advice (the CAB) has figures showing that people struggled to repay their loan in four out of five cases reported to them since the 3rd of last October, and we all know that those going along to the CAB are only a small proportion of those affected.

Second, The FCA is concerned that customers are being charged high rates to contact financial services firms and so they will consult with industry, consumer organisations and consumers to see about ensuring that customer calls are more affordable. The FCA's director of policy, risk and research said: "It is not fair that customers often have to use expensive phone lines when calling firms to ask for help or to complain.

"At difficult times the last thing people need is the added stress of worrying about how much calls are going to cost.

"We would welcome companies looking again at the rates they charge for phone calls ahead of our consultation." I like the cut of his jib (as they used to say). Doesn't that sound like a thinly veiled threat? I'm always amused to hear organisations puffing out their chests when we all know that 'averages' include lows as well as highs.

Ofcom published their latest research into broadband speeds last Tuesday. They say: 'our research found that the average actual speed for UK fixed-line residential broadband connections in November 2013 was 17.8Mbit/s. The average actual speed of superfast fixed broadband connections (i.e. those with a headline speed of 'up to' 30Mbit/s or higher) was 47.0 Mbit/s, which was over five times the average actual speed of connections above 'up to' 10Mbit/s and less than 'up to' 30Mbit/s (8.4Mbit/ s). The average speed for connections above 'up to' 2Mbit/s up to and including 10Mbit/s was 3.3Mbit/s, less than a tenth of the average speed for superfast connections'.

That's all very well, but one of our readers here continues a long fight for a better connection speed.

He tells me: "From the results below you can see that despite an engineer working on our broadband at the beginning of April (latest this year), our broadband is still varying by over 1 mbps on the download which is therefore anything from 0.4 to 2.1mbps and the upload is a bare constant 0.36mbps. It follows that with the download typically 0.9/ 1.4mbps we can do very little with it." Sorry for all that technical stuff - but you get the point! Have a relaxed Easter, and go easy on the chocolate! As you know, you can contact me either by email (peter.shears@plymouth.ac.uk) or by post at Plymouth Law School, Plymouth University, PL4 8AA. My telephone message box is always too crowded.

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