Consumer Protection

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th March 2016.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 11:30 am, 15th March 2016

What steps he is taking to protect consumers from faulty and unsafe products.

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Last year we passed the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which established a defined period of 30 days in which consumers can reject faulty goods after purchase, ending the possibility of consumers becoming trapped in a cycle of recurring faults.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

My constituent Mr Clive Davison has raised a concern about the delay in having his faulty Hotpoint tumble dryer fixed. There is real concern about this, given the risk of fire with these products. What are the Government doing to ensure that consumers like my constituent receive speedy assistance?

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

I understand that this risk was assessed as low; nevertheless, it is very important that the company deal with it. My hon. Friend’s local trading standards service has informed us that it is satisfied that the company is taking this matter seriously. I am sure that the company will want to pay particular attention to this constituent since his case has been raised in the House of Commons.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle

The Minister referred to the Consumer Rights Act. When the Bill that became that Act was going through the House, I tabled a number of amendments to address the issue of unsafe and faulty electrical goods, and the then Minister gave a series of assurances and arguments that now appear to be hollow when we see the campaigning work by Electrical Safety First and by the Daily Mirror. We were told that the issue would be kept under review—is it under review?

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

Absolutely. I will make sure that I have a conversation with the hon. Gentleman to understand what continuing concerns he has and to make sure that we address them.

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Today is World Consumer Rights Day. The Consumer Rights Act was trumpeted as bringing a new era of simplified, clearer consumer laws. However, most trading standards services have cut their staff by at least 40% since 2010. How can consumers enforce these new rights, and how can rogue traders be brought to justice, in the light of these cuts?

Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education)

I am afraid that it is rather typical of the Opposition to assume that unless there is public money, and public money that is always growing, it is impossible to enforce rights. Trading standards services are merely one of the enforcement mechanisms for consumer rights. Consumers can enforce their own rights, as established by the Consumer Rights Act, and trading standards services are working more efficiently across the country.