Competition and Consumer Protection

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st May 2018.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood 12:00 am, 1st May 2018

What steps he is taking to ensure that markets work in the interests of consumers.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

What steps he is taking to ensure that the industrial strategy benefits consumers through increased competition.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The industrial strategy makes it clear that a competitive UK economy in which firms compete on price, service and innovation is one that serves consumers best. Our recently published Green Paper, “Modernising Consumer Markets”, sets out proposals to ensure that consumers benefit from new technologies and, in particular, that consumers’ data must be used to benefit them and not to act unfairly against them.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

I welcome that response. In ensuring that markets work for consumers, it is important that they work for vulnerable consumers, including those with mental health issues or dementia. Will my right hon. Friend enlarge on what he is doing to ensure that the markets work for those sorts of consumers?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

It is important that providers of services take into account the struggles of people suffering from mental ill health or dementia. The Green Paper sets out proposals requiring that minimum standards be applied, especially for utilities. In that regard, I applaud the work of the Alzheimer’s Society, which has launched the dementia-friendly utility guide, in which several companies are participating. That will help to make sure that people who deal with vulnerable consumers can assist them with bills, booking appointments and suchlike.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

Does my right hon. Friend think that the competition regime that we have in the UK is fit for purpose, and are there sufficient resources to enable it to review all the major deals that seem to keep happening?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I do think it is necessary to keep it under review, hence the Green Paper, because with the rise of new technologies, there are new challenges for regulators and new perspectives are required on mergers. We have increased the funding for the Competition and Markets Authority. My hon. Friend will have noticed that I appointed as chairman of the CMA Andrew Tyrie, who I think everyone on both sides of the House would recognise is a good, robust champion of the consumer.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

One of the ways in which consumers are very often ripped off is through the practice of drip pricing in online purchases—particularly through the practice of outlaw companies such as Viagogo, for example, which uses it. What work is the right hon. Gentleman doing in relation to that and with his colleagues from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. Again, this is at the heart of the Green Paper, which looks at how new technologies can disadvantage consumers. In fact, in the case that he mentions, prosecutions are in train. Very robust action is being taken against that kind of abuse.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Will the Secretary of State come down from the clouds? He knows that the biggest damage to all consumers in this country is coming from leaving the European Union. Did he see the LinkedIn report this morning that says that talented people in our country are fleeing overseas? Is that good for consumers?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

That was an ingenious piece of shoehorning, I must say. Part of our commitment is to make sure that we have a free trade agreement with the rest of the European Union that allows us to continue to serve markets right across Europe and the world. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the success of employment, including in his constituency in recent months, he will see that companies are employing people at rates not seen for many years.