Section 9: Repeal of certain powers of direction
45.This section repeals section 12 FTA 1973 and section 13 Competition Act 1980.
Section 10: Part 2 of the 1973 Act
46.Part II of FTA 1973 was created to allow the Secretary of State, on the advice of the DGFT and a then newly-created Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, to make orders to prevent or modify unfair (but not illegal) trade practices that harmed the economic interests of consumers. Only three orders have been made under Part II (of which two are still in force) and the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, upon whose report the order-making power is dependent, has not existed in practice since 1983.
47.This section repeals most of Part II. It retains the two orders made under Part II that are still in force, and the enforcement provisions for those orders. It includes a power to repeal the remaining provisions of Part II once the two remaining orders have been revoked, and the enforcement provisions are therefore no longer required:
subsection (1) repeals sections 3, 13–22 and Schedule 2 of FTA 1973;
section 3 and Schedule 2 of FTA 1973 provide for the creation of the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee and set out the terms by which members of the Committee will be appointed and retained. They also set out the Committee’s procedures for voting and arrangements for deputising for the Chairman. The Committee lost its quorum in 1982 and the last appointments expired in 1983;
sections 13-16 FTA 1973 set out the role and duties of the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee. They set out the circumstances in which the Secretary of State, any other Minister, or the DGFT can ask the Committee to consider whether a specified consumer trade practice adversely affects the economic interests of consumers in the UK, and the requirements for the Committee to report on its findings;
sections 17-21 FTA 1973 set out the circumstances in which the DGFT can, in a reference to the Advisory Committee, recommend that the Secretary of State makes an order to prevent a practice that is harming the economic interests of consumers from continuing. They also set out the requirements for the Committee to report on its findings;
section 22 FTA 1973 gives the Secretary of State the power to make such an order following a recommendation by the Committee. Two orders made as a result of this provision remain in force today. These are the Consumer Transactions (Restrictions on Statements) Order 1976 (1976/1813 as amended by SI 1978/127) and the Business Advertisements (Disclosure) Order 1977 (1977/1918). No orders have been made under section 22 since then;
The Consumer Transactions (Restrictions on Statements) Order 1976 makes it a criminal offence: (i) to use notices to attempt to restrict consumers’ statutory rights, and (ii) to issue guarantees that do not mention that a consumer’s statutory rights are not affected by the guarantee;
The Business Advertisements (Disclosure) Order 1977 requires that anyone seeking to sell goods in the course of a business must ensure that any advertisements published make it reasonably clear that the goods are to be sold in the course of a business. An example of this in practice is where classified advertisements for car sales include a (T) where they are trade rather than private sales.
48.Subsection (2) provides that these two orders shall remain in force, notwithstanding the repeal of section 22 under which they were made. They will continue to be enforced under the provisions set out at sections 23-33 FTA 1973. The subsection also preserves the effect of section 22 so far as relating to any revocation of the orders. Accordingly, any revocation order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
49.Subsection (3) provides that, if and when those orders are revoked, the Secretary of State may repeal, by order, any remaining provisions of Part II of FTA 1973, and subsection (2) above, which will no longer be needed.
50.Subsection (3) allows for other consequential amendments or modifications that are necessary as a result of these repeals. Subsection (4) allows for transitional or savings provisions to be made in connection with these. It also sets out that any orders under Subsection (3) will be made by negative resolution in either House of Parliament.
Section 11: Super-complaints to the OFT
51.This section gives certain designated consumer bodies the right to make a 'super-complaint' where they consider that there is any market feature or combination of features, such as the structure of a market or the conduct of those operating within it, that may be harming consumers to a significant extent. The market in question may be regional, national or supranational (where the UK forms part of that market). The aim of this procedure is to encourage groups who represent consumers to make relevant complaints on their collective behalf, and the OFT will be obliged to respond to a super-complaint within a specified time.
52.Subsections (2) and (3) set out the timeframe in which the OFT must respond. Within 90 days, the OFT will be required to make a considered response to a super-complaint, setting out what action, if any, it proposes to take under its competition or consumer powers. Eventual outcomes could, for example, include a formal reference to the CC or the publication by the OFT of a report recommending changes to regulation or self-regulation. The OFT must also explain the reasons behind its decision.
53.Subsection (4) allows the Secretary of State to alter the 90 day period for an OFT response should this period of time, through experience, prove to be either too lax or too limiting.
54.Subsection (6)provides for the route by which super-complainants will be named and describes who may qualify for super-complainant status: namely, those bodies who appear to represent the interests of consumers and meet the additional criteria for designation that the Secretary of State is required to publish.
55.Subsection (7) obliges the OFT to issue guidance on the presentation of a reasoned case. The OFT will of course require some evidence from the super-complainant in support of the super-complaint and super-complainants will expect to provide some supporting evidence. What constitutes a reasoned case will vary from case to case, but the OFT guidance will help super-complainants to submit a reasoned case. The OFT may also issue other relevant guidance, for example on the publicising of super-complaints or on super-complaints concerning the regulated sectors.
56.Subsection (9)cross-refers to the relevant definitions in Part 4 of the Act.