CTSI responds to Government’s consultation response to make shopping online safer for UK consumers

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has welcomed the latest update by the Department for Trade and Business (DBT) that lays out plans to strengthen the provisions in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill (DMCC Bill).

The consultation response to the ‘smarter regulation: improving price transparency and product information for consumers’ issued by the UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade, seeks to better protect consumers from fake reviews and unfair pricing as well as extending provisions to Trading Standards to take down harmful online content. CTSI has campaigned for provisions in this Bill to be as robust as possible, and to allow Trading Standards to effectively carry out their enforcement work to better protect UK consumers.

Fake Reviews are extremely misleading to consumers who are looking for genuine advice on products and services; they are also harmful to honest businesses who will rank lower due to fewer positive reviews. CTSI’s Lead Officer network has worked closely with officials at DBT to evidence just how harmful these fake reviews can be and the need for them to be a criminal offence.

Today’s announcement also extends powers to Trading Standards to apply to the courts with an online interface order to remove content and websites that are misleading consumers.

CTSI is seeking to address other key areas in the DMCC through the parliamentary passage in the House of Lords with support of CTSI President, The Earl of Lindsay, CTSI Vice President, Baroness Christine Crawley and Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. Areas that CTSI are seeking to improve:

  • – More effective powers for Trading Standards officers, including the ability to exercise powers across UK borders
  • – Provisions to help tackle rogue traders

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The new proposed laws put before parliament in the DMCC Bill is welcome news for consumers and honest businesses. Digital markets took the UK by storm and as regulators we were on the back foot to proactively deal with issues arising online. Although the introduction of this Bill was a positive step in the right direction, CTSI voiced concerns that important elements were missing from the Bill, such as fake reviews and Trading Standards ability to remove harmful content from websites.

“Fake reviews are clearly misleading and should be treated as a criminal offence. Our Lead Officers have been instrumental in demonstrating the harmful effects to consumers and why this was such a crucial addition to the Bill, so the announcement made today to include this as a civil breach only is disappointing.

“We will be watching the parliamentary passage through the House of Lords with interest and we hope that our further suggestions to make this Bill more robust will be debated and considered by Government.”

Included in the Government’s consultation response announced today was the review of the Price Marking Order, which is welcome news for consumers and businesses to bring these regulations into the 21st Century. CTSI will be actively working with Government departments to make sure that Trading Standards views are heard and considered to ensure maximum protection for consumers.