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Consumer protection And the United Kingdom Legislation

Introduction

With the advent of the national and transnational conglomerates, it was imperative that laws were enacted for protecting the consumer against the might of the firm. Most firms tend to have better resources and more knowledge of the market as well as the legislative environment and this puts the average consumer at an inherent disadvantage. Furthermore, in case of disputes, absence of consumer protection laws can lead to costly legal actions, which are not good for either the consumer or the firm. In addition, the distribution system has become complex and the manufacturer is transparent to the end consumer. Therefore, as a part of retaining consumer confidence, the grievance redressal system must clearly identify the first point of contact as well as the alternative recourse available to the consumer. The legal framework, which looks at defining the parameters within which all sellers of goods and services to consumers must operate, is what constitutes consumer protection. In the absence of such a system, the courts (or arbitrations) would be the only recourse. Therefore, to ensure that the market place operates reasonably efficiently and that the rights and duties, along with relevant finer points (including time frames, exchange policies and warranties), consumer legislation has been implemented in the United Kingdom and the larger EU.

Issues like unfair competition or collusion between two businesses at the cost of consumers (Argos and Littlewoods v/s OFT [20054] CAT 13 (29th Apr.2005)) are thre responsibility of the OFT. Significantly, in Case of Argos and Littlewoods v/s OFT, significant multi million pound fines have been levied as a deterrent. However as the case suggests, the fines do not have a calculation table. This leads to unnecessary litigation where the fine and not the decision are appealed. This will continue to be a challenge for consumer protection as there is a significant amount of subjectivity involved in determining the "quantum" of offence.

 Overall, such regulations are adequate for most regular consumer purchases of goods and services and as such are clear enough for resolution by governmental departments like the OFT and the FSA (Howells and Weatherill 2005). However, consumer law will continue to evolve as the European Union expands and begins to cater to the requirements of all member states. Consumer protection is a multi faceted problem. As business avenues and indeed the way business is conducted between retail consumers and larger firms, continues to evolve, the regulations must continually change to keep pace with newer commercial developments.

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