Consumer protections

Whether we’re buying groceries, using the internet, booking a holiday or paying for home improvements, we should be able to trust the products and services we use and buy. Strong consumer protections keep unscrupulous businesses in check, and underpin consumer confidence, which is essential for a healthy economy.

Our polling and qualitative research find overwhelming support for strong consumer protections across the British electorate. Unfortunately, scams and fraud are becoming part of everyday life. These schemes disproportionately affect the elderly, with devastating financial, emotional and health impacts.

Product safety is also of real concern, as cash-strapped Local Authorities struggle to carry out the required safety checks. And proper regulation of ‘Big Tech’ is long overdue. Despite this, there are signs that important consumer protections could be weakened.

Consumer protections

Whether we’re buying groceries, using the internet, booking a holiday or paying for home improvements, we should be able to trust the products and services we use and buy. Strong consumer protections keep unscrupulous businesses in check, and underpin consumer confidence, which is essential for a healthy economy.

Our polling and qualitative research find overwhelming support for strong consumer protections across the British electorate. Unfortunately, scams and fraud are becoming part of everyday life. These schemes disproportionately affect the elderly, with devastating financial, emotional and health impacts.

Product safety is also of real concern, as cash-strapped Local Authorities struggle to carry out the required safety checks. And proper regulation of ‘Big Tech’ is long overdue. Despite this, there are signs that important consumer protections could be weakened.

The UK’s consumer protection enforcement gap

UK regulatory bodies tasked with the enforcement of consumer protections have suffered significant funding cuts over the last ten years, with accompanying declines in staff numbers. Local Trading Standards teams have been hit particularly hard, with budgets falling by over 50% since 2009, and staff numbers falling by nearly two thirds.

Enforcement activity has fallen dramatically. Trading Standards teams now spend an average of just £1.99 a year per citizen on policing rogue traders. On average, a Local Authority will prosecute a doorstep criminal less than once a year. Councils have also cut back on product safety testing, with half carrying out no chemical testing of everyday consumer products in the last three years.

National bodies like the Serious Fraud Office have also reduced their enforcement activity, while questions remain over whether there are currently enough protections to ensure that we can be safe online.

Enforcement Gap
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Your stories

HENNA’S STORY

"Our nightmare began when we were looking for someone to do an extension on our property. We weren't the only victims."

OSCAR’S STORY

In November 2016, seven-month-old Oscar Abbey was found by his parents with his head caught in the side of his cot.

MARILYN’S STORY

"Mother had always been independent. Things changed when she replied to that first scam letter. I was powerless to help."

ALICE’S STORY

"This was the first time I’d tried DIY teeth whitening kits. The website said they were: ‘safe for use’ and ‘used by top dentists’. But I guess I should have checked."

MICHELLE’S STORY

"I am one of thousands of people who would like to see justice done to Vance Miller, who is behind several dodgy kitchen firms."

JANET’S STORY

"We contracted Ben, a friend of my daughter’s, to build a granny annexe for us. We thought we could trust him, but we were so wrong."