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Cost of Living

Volume 490: debated on Monday 23 March 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what steps his Department is taking to protect consumers from the effects of rises in the price of consumer commodities during the current economic situation. (262923)

The Government take the view that their role is to facilitate competition by promoting open and competitive markets, enforced by strong and independent competition authorities, and empowered consumers, rather than to control directly the price setting behaviour of the firms.

Hence, apart from a limited number of exceptions, no price controls operate in the UK and no restrictions are placed on the prices which business may charge consumers. Retailers are free to set their own prices, but they are required to display them in an unambiguous, easily identifiable way in order to enable consumers to compare prices in different outlets and so obtain the best value for money.

Regulation may be necessary where competition is not working effectively or is not fully developed. Under UK competition law it is the responsibility of the Office of Fair Trading to investigate allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and possible abuses of market power.