Which? has thrown its backing behind calls for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to head up a new super-agency to protect consumers.
The Hampton Review earlier this year announced plans for a Consumer and Trading Standards Agency (CTSA) in a move aimed at reducing the cost of regulation.
OFT Chairman Philip Collins and its chief executive John Fingleton have now called for the CTSA to be part of a restructured OFT.
They say the new super agency would then take overall responsibility for competition and consumer policy to make markets work better.
Phillip Collins said: ‘We believe that the CTSA, as envisaged in the Hampton report, is a natural extension of and complement to the work of the OFT as it has developed over recent years.
‘We are confident that the OFT can deliver on the Hampton objectives, without damaging our existing competition and consumer work, and provide what both business wants and consumers need.’
Which? Principal Policy Researcher Malcolm Bassett agrees: ‘Consumer policy must be balanced to ensure that it is not dominated by a desire to intervene in markets unnecessarily; competition policy must be balanced to ensure that its decisions reflect real-world markets within which consumers operate. This cannot be achieved effectively if the CTSA and OFT are kept functionally separate.’
The CTSA would bring together the consumer enforcement functions of the OFT, as well as the functions of the British Hallmarking Council, the National Weights and Measures Laboratory and the Hearing Aid Council.
The CTSA will also lead local authority trading standards, coordinating all trading standards work not covered by the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive or the proposed Animal Health Agency.