Headlines: February 6th, 2006

Local Trading Standards departments are to work more closely with the Office of Fair Trading. The OFT says the two sides will draw upon the complementary skills and experience to develop practical solutions to shared problems and to promote best practice and innovation.As a first step in the strengthened partnership the OFT is to stage a series of seminars with its Trading Standards opposite numbers around the UK. OFT chairman Philip Collins said good practice and exciting innovation abounded in the Trading Standards Service. This included programmes with major retailers to guide and support compliance and education schemes for consumers.

He added, “A key aim for the OFT is to encourage and promote best practice nationwide, and do so quickly, so that together we can have a real, measurable and positive impact on making markets work better.”

The new, integrated service, he added, would be based upon a sound understanding of how markets worked and it would target those areas that presented the greatest risk. From April the Office will manage Consumer Direct, designed to be at the heart of a coordinated strategy for achieving effective compliance, enforcement and education across all sectors of the economy. A UK-wide consumer advice and information service will provide high-quality intelligence about difficulties facing consumers and businesses that can be used to help the OFT and Trading Standards officers to prioritise and focus resources.

John Fingleton, the OFT’s Chief Executive said the decision by the Chancellor to keep competition and consumer policy together had created the conditions to integrate expertise at national, regional and local level. “We will engage thoroughly with local concerns, both on the consumer and business side, and with the Trading Standard Service, local authorities and national regulators,” he said.