Office of Fair Trading
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Focus on economic growth as OFT publishes Annual Plan
Making markets work well for consumers and helping to drive economic growth are central OFT priorities for the next twelve months, as set out in its Annual Plan today.
The OFT plans to achieve this through continued high impact consumer and competition enforcement, alongside influencing the behaviour of consumers, businesses and Government - making full use of its combined consumer and competition tools.
During 2011/12 the OFT will prioritise key sectors for economic growth and UK consumers, with a particular focus on:
Public services markets, providing constructive advice to government where these are opened up, to help frame and deliver markets that work well for users and taxpayers
High innovation markets and business models, with a particular focus on intellectual property and low carbon issues.
Developing trust in online markets, ensuring that continuing innovation in the UK's £50 billion online economy is met with strategic enforcement to tackle emerging or complex fair trading issues.
Economic infrastructure sectors, informed by the OFT's recent stock take of infrastructure ownership and control.
Markets impacted by rising global commodity price rises.
Transparency and fairness in advertising and pricing, ensuring targeted enforcement action against misleading pricing.
Protecting vulnerable consumers, building on a track record of interventions and work on high-pressure selling, consumer credit lending and mental incapacity.
The plan is delivered in the context of a spending review, which reduces the OFT's budget by 25 per cent over four years, requiring it to deliver 'more with less'. The OFT plans to maintain its frontline enforcement budget whilst continuing to make this work more efficient, and at the same time deliver a radical overhaul of back office functions. See press release, 'OFT announces changes to group structures', 31 March 2011.
The OFT will also work closely with the Government on its consultation into possible future changes to the competition and consumer regime, to ensure reforms build on the most successful features of the current system.
OFT Chairman, Philip Collins, said:
'The current focus on economic growth and recovery makes an effective competition and consumer regime more crucial than ever. While much is likely to change in the next twelve months, we will continue to focus on the best outcomes for consumers, including vulnerable consumers, and the wider economy.'
Download the OFT's annual plan here.
Recent months have seen some key pieces of work focusing on strategically important areas, including: strong action to protect consumers, including securing a landmark judgment that a number of prize draw promotions are unlawful; innovative work on advertising of prices developing our understanding of how consumers are affected by misleading pricing practices; and working with Government to improve competition in public sector markets by conducting research on cross-cutting issues, such as a recent study on commissioning & competition. The OFT also has 23 ongoing competition law enforcement cases, 11 of which have been opened in the past year.
The priorities have been developed following a wide-ranging consultation including businesses and consumer groups.