Citizens Advice response to the BEIS Reforming competition and consumer policy consultation paper
At Citizens Advice, we offer free, independent, and confidential advice and information to anyone who needs it. Every day we help people with the consequences of essential market failures; from widespread price discrimination costing loyal customers billions, to the pricing of natural monopolies that may overly favour investors at the expense of consumers. The people who use our services are four times more likely to be in poverty than the general population, and are often facing complex, vulnerable circumstances. This gives us a unique insight into the ways markets don’t work for those who struggle to engage with them.
In the past year, we have supported people with over 930,000 consumer problems, and have been at the forefront of helping consumers manage the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Government and regulators acted swiftly to protect consumers and businesses, but the pandemic still provided opportunities for businesses to exploit consumers, revealing weaknesses in our consumer protection frameworks. We have also seen an acceleration in the digitisation of markets that has been developing over recent years, bringing both new benefits and potential risks to consumers. It’s therefore welcome that the government is taking the opportunity of the Reforming Competition and Consumer Policy consultation to consider how consumer rights and enforcement can be strengthened to keep pace with markets.