Headlines: November 10th, 2005

The National Consumer Council is calling today for a more intelligent debate on red tape and for a more consumer-focused approach to judging which regulations work and which do not.The NCC has produced a pamphlet, “Consumers and Regulation”, which it says is designed to cut through what it calls ‘regu-waffle’ from vested business interests, which condemn all regulation as bad.

The pamphlet points out that it is not businesses but consumers who pick up the bill for over-regulation from controls on Sunday opening and civil wedding venues to limitations on the number of licensed taxis in a given town.

The NCC pamphlet says that what matters more than cutting red tape for the sake of it is ensuring regulation is used sparingly and with a clear sense of purpose. It is calling on Government to use regulation only when it is needed to provide essential safeguards for vulnerable people and to help make markets work. It wants ‘needless red tape’, which it says can strangle tasks as simple as going shopping or as joyful as getting married to be swept away.

Philip Cullum, Deputy Chief Executive of the NCC and author of the pamphlet, said,” All too often companies and entire sectors try to use regulation to restrict or prevent competition. That may well serve business interests but does nothing for the interests of consumers. It’s time to get rid of the red tape that restricts people shopping in bigger shops on Sundays or makes it hard for law-abiding citizens to open a bank account. And there are still too many daft rules like the one telling people when they can and can’t eat in a civil wedding venue. Restrictions like these achieve nothing, beyond limiting consumer choice. They need to go.”