§ Mr. Neil Hamilton
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he has reached a decision on the code of practice and proposed regulations under part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 to control certain misleading price indications.
§ Mr. Forth
I have given very careful consideration to all the representations put to me on the need for regulations to support the general offence of giving consumers a misleading price indication, laid down by part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987. Public consultations did not reveal a consensus either on the need for regulations or on the form any regulations should take. There is no clear evidence at this stage of a need for regulations in addition to the general offence and the code of practice. Moreover, there is a risk that regulations could undermine the effectiveness of the general offence. I have therefore concluded that it would not be right to introduce regulations at this stage.
Taken together, I believe that the general offence and the code of practice will prove adequate to control misleading price indications and will do so in a way which is easier for all to understand and put into practice than regulations would be. Nonetheless, I intend that the operation of the new regime should be reviewed two or three years after coming into force (or earlier if the need arises), to ensure that if any difficulties emerge, they can be dealt with.203W
The code of practice will be revised to take account of comments received during consultations on it and the decision not to make regulations. We expect to publish the final version of the code at the end of this month, with the aim of bringing part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 into force on 1 March 1989. I believe that the lengthy consultations that we have carried out on this issue have been both valuable and necessary. As a result, we have now arrived at a regime which reflects a proper balance and will benefit both consumers and traders.