New proposals to make the Citizens Advice service a champion for consumer information across a range of sectors and a new National Trading Standards Board have been announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Consumers need to know who to go to when they have a problem which is why Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland will take on responsibilities and resources from the Office for Fair Trading and Consumer Focus. The process has already started, and a new advice line succeeding Consumer Direct was launched by the Citizens Advice service on 2 April.
The Citizens Advice service will also take on responsibility from Consumer Focus for representing consumers' interests in unregulated sectors. This will leave a new, technical Regulated Industries Unit working with the energy and postal services sectors and their regulators, replacing Consumer Focus.
Trading Standards will continue to play a critical role in protecting consumers and businesses, which is why Government is providing increased funding of £10.5million for England, Wales and Scotland to build on local expertise and strengthen mechanisms for cross-boundary working – making it easier to catch unscrupulous traders.
As part of the reforms, a new National Trading Standards Board will bring together representatives of Trading Standards from England and Wales to prioritise, fund and coordinate national and regional enforcement cases.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has also set up a task group to look at how best to deliver the landscape changes in Scotland in both the short- and long- term.
The NTSB will be responsible for gathering important intelligence from around the country to combat rogue traders, and tackle priorities such as internet scams, illegal money lending and other enforcement issues that go beyond local authority boundaries.
Consumer Affairs Minister, Norman Lamb said: "For too long people have been faced with an array of different bodies for advice and support, but its not always clear who to turn to first. The Citizens Advice service will become the publicly-funded voice of consumers, championing their needs and empowering them to make the right choices for themselves.
"There will also be clearer responsibilities and better coordination between enforcers and consumer bodies. A new National Trading Standards Board is exactly what we need to combat priority areas such as loan sharks and internet scams.
"All of the reforms will ensure that we have the right system of help, advice and protection for consumers."