HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc834-5
13. Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

What measures he is taking to protect consumers from rogue traders. [133901]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Dr. Kim Howells)

We are improving protection against rogue traders in three main areas: through better enforcement of consumer legislation, including e-commerce; by pursuing individual cases that are causing particular concern, such as the servicing and repair of cars; and through the modernising of consumer advice networks.

Ms Prentice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I know that he is very much in favour of the market—something for which I have some sympathy—but does he not think that it is time to recognise the consumer as the market? In that light, when is the injunctions directive likely to be introduced? What might its main effects be?

Dr. Howells

I believe that the market offers the best protection for consumers and the widest choice possible, which is better for them, but I am pleased that the injunctions directive will be introduced early next year. It will enable named bodies to take out injunctions in local courts against rogue traders. That will strengthen legitimate businesses and do much to protect vulnerable consumers.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Can the Minister help older people who are preyed on by rogue traders asking to tarmac their drives? They often have no comeback and could not afford an injunction through the court.

Dr. Howells

Yes, indeed. The vulnerable people whom the hon. Lady mentions will not have to take out those injunctions. They can be taken out by trading standards officers or other named bodies. We know, for example, that the Consumers Association has become the named body on the mis-selling of mortgages. We will enable such bodies to seek injunctions in court to stop those gangsters trading.

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