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Goods and Services

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that suppliers of goods and services provide sufficient information to enable customers to trace them. (116322)

The vast majority of consumer products are already required to carry the name and address of the producer or importer in the European Community. There are specific requirements for e-commerce and distance selling and for traders who use names other than their own. When the unfair commercial practices directive is implemented later this year, it will require that consumers are always provided with certain information, including identity and geographical address, where there is an invitation to purchase a good or a service.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. It is not unusual nowadays to see fliers distributed through the door with merely a mobile phone number on them. Those who purchase by that route and are dissatisfied with the service offered often find that it is a pay-as-you-go number or one that cannot be traced later. Will the steps that he has outlined address that problem?

My hon. Friend asks a good question. That is exactly what the unfair commercial practices directive will do. If he has a case or cases that have prompted that question, I am happy to meet him with my officials and with his local trading standards officer to see whether there is any evidence in the marketplace in relation to a specific trading area that we can deal with immediately.

Despite the right hon. Gentleman’s reassurances, if he went into a supermarket he might find a product called Suffolk Choice bacon, which comes from nowhere near Suffolk. Dealing specifically with pork and pigmeat products, is he aware that products can be imported into this country that are completely unacceptable on welfare grounds when selling to consumers? What will he do to help to inform consumers about the abuse of labelling that is taking place, particularly as regards such products?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have that matter under active consideration, although I have no specific knowledge of Suffolk bacon. In the past year I have lost 5 stone in weight, so I have eaten no form of bacon whatsoever—not even Scottish bacon from Ayrshire—but if he can convince me that Suffolk bacon is one of the best I may well break that taboo and start eating it again. It is a complex issue, but I will write to him with a substantive answer.

On the subject of things lost, can my right hon. Friend give us an update on where his Department stands as regards the Farepak inquiry and when it expects the report to be published?

I thank my hon. Friend. Arrangements are being made to close the fund that was set up and to audit the accounts. I repeat my commitment to place those accounts in the Library when they have been audited. The administrator is carrying on with his or her report and will be going back to the court to seek additional powers in respect of those investigations. The companies investigation branch is continuing its investigations and receiving co-operation. The Office of Fair Trading has sent Ministers a scoping paper, which we are considering. Next week, there will be a meeting with officials to consider the next steps forward. I reiterate the commitment that I gave to hon. Members on both sides of the House—when I have more substantive information I will bring it into the public domain. In addition, I will consult those Members with the closest interest in the matter, including Opposition spokespersons.