Trade and Industry
Dr Vincent Cable (Twickenham, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many complaints have been received alleging unfair contract terms under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 in each year since 1997; how many of these complaints have been open for more than two years; and how many successful prosecutions there have been in each year since 1997.
Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Employment Relations, Competition and Consumers), Department of Trade and Industry; Bradford South, Labour)
Figures for the last two financial years are:
At the end of the last financial year, 125 cases had been open for over two years.
OFT has no power to undertake prosecutions as such for the use of unfair terms. Its power is to seek injunctions to prevent the use of unfair terms. But OFT may accept undertakings not to use unfair terms in lieu of seeking injunctions and in nearly all cases it secures such improvements in standard contract terms in this way, through consultation and negotiation. Since 1995, OFT has secured some 900 undertakings from businesses not to use unfair terms. These undertakings govern the use of some 5,000 unfair terms. In only one case, that of 'Director General of Fair Trading v. First National Bank', has the OFT had to take legal action to stop the use of a term it considered unfair. In that case, the House of Lords reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and decided that the term in question was not unfair.