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Central Heating

Volume 893: debated on Monday 16 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she will arrange for an investigation of door to door selling and financing of central heating.

The Director-General of Fair Trading is already engaged in a review of doorstep selling. The financing of central heating installations will be covered by regulations to be made under the Consumer Credit Act.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the Consumer Credit Act can be brought into this? Since some of the firms involved have been named in newspaper articles, would not this be an ideal situation for the Director General of Fair Trading to invoke Section 38 of the Fair Trading Act to warn those companies and to take whatever appropriate action may be necessary in the Restrictive Practices Court?

The hon. Lady will know that we discussed this matter at considerable length in the House last week. I am sure that we all very much regret that she was not able to be with us.

It may have been an Adjournment debate, but it was an extended one. We would have welcomed the hon. Lady's point of view. Dealing with the point about the Consumer Credit Act, I can tell the hon. Lady that we shall be introducing licensing in the autumn. That will be an ideal opportunity for the Director General to impose further discipline upon those who have behaved in what I know the hon. Lady would agree can be described as a shabby way towards the consumer. I am sure that the Director General will welcome any information that the hon. Lady can give about individual firms.

Does my hon. Friend accept that there are Labour Members who would join with the hon. Lady in calling for stringent action to be taken against those free enterprise contractors who exploit the consumer when selling central heating? Is it not worth reminding the House and the country that the best people to give advice on central heating are at the electricity boards and gas boards? Further, is it not the case that such advice is free?

That is extremely sound advice. It is valuable for the House to warn the consumer as often as possible of the risks he faces in buying from some doorstep salesmen. Most of them are decent, genuine traders. It needs only a small proportion of people trading in high-cost goods like central heating to do tremendous harm to large numbers.