§ Mr. Foster
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will refer to the Director General of Fair Trading the excessive price increases by traders in the North-East as a result of recent increases in VAT.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
, pursuant to her reply [Official Report, 4 July 1979], gave the following answer:
I am conscious of a great deal of public concern that the recent changes in VAT have led to other and unrelated price increases being presented by some traders as solely occasioned by the VAT increase.
Of course there will have been price increases which coincided with the change in VAT. Where this has happened it would be unfair to criticise traders. But those traders who have misrepresented the price increase necessary to cover the increase in VAT could be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act. I hope that trading standards officers are keeping a careful watch on what is happening; and I urge consumers who have specific examples of the minority of unscrupulous 676W traders who cheat in this way, to let their local trading standards departments have full details.
I am sure, however, that, for the few traders who have engaged in this practice, there is a larger number who have borne the VAT increase themselves and have not raised prices.
I have had recommendations from the Director General of Fair Trading and from the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee in relation to VAT inclusive prices. I am examining these to see whether it is possible to ensure that shoppers are not misled about the amount of VAT included in the selling price of goods.