HC Deb 27 January 2000 vol 343 cc565-6
6. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What recent discussions his Department has had with representatives of the mail order companies on consumer protection in that industry. [105754]

The Minister for Competitiveness (Mr. Alan Johnson)

The Department has met representatives of the mail order industry to discuss consumer protection issues concerning implementation of the European directive on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts, and the proposals in the consumer White Paper relating to codes of practice.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Not only do many hon. Members shop by mail order because of lack of time, but, more important, many of my poorer constituents do so because it is the only way in which they can phase payments. There are many good mail order companies, but in dealing with some of them, people may encounter particular problems in arranging deliveries and making complaints: people often cannot get hold of anyone in a responsible position to deal with the matter that they wish to raise. Will my hon. Friend assure me that, in future discussions, he will raise those topics with the mail order companies, so that our poorer constituents will be entitled to better protection?

Mr. Johnson

My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the reasons for introducing better consumer protection in the sector is that, although the vast majority of mail order companies behave in an exemplary manner, the most vulnerable people are sometimes exploited by a small minority. I will take her views into account and pass on to her the response of the Mail Order Traders Association of Great Britain next time we meet, but I remind her that we are consulting on the implementation regulations until 11 February. All submissions will be gratefully received.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does the Minister accept that it is possible to receive junk mail not only through the post but by fax? What about introducing some consumer protection for the poor guy who owns the fax machine and ends up having to pay for the paper, the toner and everything else? What about some protection for hon. Members who return home to discover on the floor at least 200 yards of fax paper containing useless junk that has been faxed to us? We need such protection, too.

Mr. Johnson

The hon. Gentleman's remarks strike a chord throughout the House. I remind him that the consultation that I mentioned earlier, on the European directive on distance selling, includes measures to ensure that people have a statutory right to choose whether to receive advertising mail, regardless of whether it is sent by e-mail, the post or fax. As I said, the consultation period finishes on 11 February.