Consumer Protection

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

What recent steps his Department has taken to protect consumers.

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

In June, the Government announced steps to ensure that consumers will not be punished for their loyalty. We are giving increased powers to the Competition and Markets Authority to fine companies that breach the law and to enable consumers to take control of the data that businesses hold on them.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

Mr Speaker, when you stay at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel, you may be paying 20% too much, because online agencies such as Booking.com use brandjacking clauses to colonise search results, and rate parity clauses, which mean that even if you go direct, you still pay 20% more than you need to. Other EU nations have banned this. Will we?

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that point. The Competition and Markets Authority is taking enforcement action against the major hotel booking sites precisely because of those concerns. It has already secured binding commitments from those companies, which will protect consumers in exactly the way that he recommends.

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

Why can we not protect consumers from having their goods delivered by companies such as Amazon in filthy, dirty, polluting vehicles? Why will the Secretary of State not step in and do something about that?

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

We have already had exchanges across the Chamber on the move to electric vehicles. The investments of recent days are moving us towards a clean and green fleet. With his industrial interests, I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Is not the best way to protect value, service and price for consumers through the promotion of competition?

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

Consumers can sign up to long-term financial commitments for broadband, television and mobile phone services by clicking a few buttons online, but to cancel those services they have to fill out arduous forms, make numerous phone calls or even write to the companies involved. Will the Secretary of State look at that anomaly, to ensure fairness, and to provide the same mechanism for getting and stopping?

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

For precisely those reasons, the issue is already being looked at by the Competition and Markets Authority. It is important that people are not penalised and do not find it difficult to extract themselves from commitments that are easily entered into. There needs to be fairness and transparency, and that is precisely what the CMA is engaged in.