The Humble Petition of Mr D Pickerill,
That the Petitioner bought a Citroën C4 on 6 April 2011, which the Petitioner declares was purchased from Citroën for £14,615, but had been advertised from 1 April 2011 for £12,995; further declares that the Petitioner believes that he was wilfully overcharged; and declares that despite the assistance of the Honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley, Citroën have refused to refund or properly explain the difference.
Wherefore your Petitioner prays that your Honourable House will urge the Government to ensure that fair trade remains a principle of doing business within the United Kingdom; and bring forward legislation to ensure that all transactions in the UK are equitable and that companies, such as Citroën, cannot advertise a product for one price and sell it at a higher price.
And your Petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by John Hemming, Official Report, 4 July 2012; Vol. 547, c. 1028.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:
The Government note the concern of the Petitioner that there is a lack of legislation protecting consumers from alleged misleading advertising by traders.
Advertising in the UK is controlled primarily by self-regulation under which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has responsibility ensuring compliance with the British Code of Advertising Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. The code is the body of rules by which the industry agrees to abide. It requires all forms of advertising to be legal, decent, honest and truthful and prepared with a sense of responsibility to both consumers and society. Details of how to complain about misleading advertising can be found on the ASA’s website at: www.asa.org.uk.
In addition, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1277) (CPRs) prohibit traders from engaging in unfair commercial practices against consumers (mainly marketing and selling). The Regulations apply across all business sectors and set out a framework for how businesses must deal with consumers.
The CPRs set out broad rules outlining when commercial practices are unfair. These fall into three main categories:
Misleading practices, like false or deceptive information or descriptions, or being misleading by leaving out important information.
Aggressive sales techniques that use harassment, coercion or undue influence.
Conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith). This is intended to act as safety net protection for all consumers.
A commercial practice is any activity, or course of conduct, or omission, or communication (including marketing and advertising) by a trader which is directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to or from consumers before, during or after the point at which a product might have been sold.
Information given by traders to consumers about the price of goods and services must be clear and correct. The CPRs prohibit commercial practices which contain false or misleading information about the price or the existence of a specific price advantage where this would cause or be likely to cause the average consumer to make a different choice (for example, to purchase goods or services that would not otherwise have been purchased).
The CPRs carry criminal penalties and are enforced by local authority trading standards offices in the case of individual complaints and by the Office of Fair Trading in respect of practices with wider effects on consumers generally. In the first instance, consumers should seek information and advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 (www.adviceguide.org.uk).
Given the information set out above, the Government have no plans to introduce more legislation on this issue.