HC Deb 13 November 1972 vol 846 cc18-9
10. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will seek to amend the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, so that, where a special offer on a product is quantified in relation to the manufacturer's recommended price, that recommended price should appear on the label.

Sir G. Howe

I will keep this point in mind in considering future legislation.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that without this measure double pricing abuses of the Trade Descriptions Act will continue to undermine the benefits of the abolition of resale price maintenance by misleading shoppers with bogus "special offers" and by people taking unfair advantage of those shopkeepers who make genuine reductions? Will he not agree that, despite the excellent criteria set down by his Department for the duration of the freeze, this proposed measure is crucial?

Sir G. Howe

I am glad that my hon. Friend has acknowledged that there is no reason to doubt that in most cases phrases such as "so much off" indicate a genuine reduction which is of value to the customer. I agree there is a risk that labelling and phrases of that kind can be used to mislead the customer into thinking he is getting a bargain. The difficulty is that for many goods there is no recommended price. It is difficult to be certain how to devise a remedy in such a case.

Mr. Marks

While we are awaiting the legislation, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman urge retailers to display their price lists for the week commencing 6th November and urge house-wives to boycott shops which do not?

Mr. Heffer

And may we have a clear answer this time?

Sir G. Howe

Obviously the suggestion can be looked at. But it is not necessarily easy for retailers to carry it out.

Mr. Benn

Is there any reason why the Minister should bear the point of his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) in mind for future legislation when he has power under the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Bill to ask for this information and then, presumably, to make it available publicly?

Sir G. Howe

I have explained why the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) has raised deserves consideration—[Interruption.]. It is a question of the strength of the point. It is not easy to devise a remedy when it is not clear whether there is a recommended resale price attached to the goods. It is not a question of the power; it is a question of the desirability of the remedy.