To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, columns 541-2W, on doorstep selling, what mechanisms he plans to use to protect vulnerable consumers through the implementation of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive; and if he will give additional powers to trading standards officers for that purpose.
Regulations to be made later this year to implement the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive will prohibit traders from engaging in aggressive marketing and selling practices. A practice will be aggressive if, through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence, it is likely to significantly impair the average consumer's freedom of choice and thereby cause him to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise. Practices which would not be aggressive when assessed against the "average consumer" test can still be unfair to vulnerable (including elderly) consumers, if they are directed at those vulnerable consumers or will foreseeably affect them. This is because in these circumstances the effect of the practice will be assessed against the average member of that group.
Use of aggressive commercial practices will be a criminal offence and the prohibition on such practices will also be enforceable by civil (injunctive) actions. Trading Standards Services (TSS) will be given enforcement powers similar to those currently existing in the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. The Government will consider whether additional enforcement powers should be given to the TSS when considering its response to the Macrory Review.