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Trade Unions: Legal Opinion

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood of 27 January 2009, Official Report, column 580W, on trade unions: legal opinion, if he will place in the Library a copy of the preliminary analysis produced by the Office of Fair Trading on whether trade union members are consumers for the purposes of consumer protection rules. (258668)

The Office of Fair Trading carried out a preliminary analysis in response to a complaint about the way in which certain trade unions collect contributions from members to political funds. The OFT decided not to pursue this issue for a number of reasons including a lack of evidence of widespread harm; the limited extent of the beneficial impact on consumers of any intervention; certain legal uncertainties which were finely balanced as to whether trade unions are ‘suppliers’ or ‘sellers’ and that members are ‘consumers’; and the need to prioritize its activities to best meet its prioritization principles. OFT lawyers contributed to consideration of the matter, but it is not the OFT’s practice to release internal legal advice, in line with rules relating to legal professional privilege.