OFT hails consumer education course

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THE Office of Fair Trading's chairman, Philip Collins, is expected to roll out a UK-wide consumer education programme following a successful trial in Scotland.

Speaking in Edinburgh, where Collins was hosting a series of briefings marking the first year of the OFT's Scottish office, he said the course aimed to educate a generation of consumers on subjects such as mobile phone tariffs, switching utility companies and buying and selling online.

He said: "The pilot scheme is being carried out at Glasgow's College of Nautical Studies and the initial feedback we have received has been very positive.

"The aim is to bring consumer education to an audience of anyone from 16 to 80 to help them feel empowered as a consumer and know what to do when things go wrong.

"This is the first time consumer education has been brought into further education and we hope to roll the programme out across the UK in April."

Samantha Brew, consumer education strategy manager, said: "Where students are on consumer and literacy courses we really want to see this in as many further education establishments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England and Wales as we possibly can."

The OFT said it had, in the past year, saved Scottish consumers 6m through investigating price-fixing, 4m through addressing competition concerns following mergers, and 1m through tackling scams such as fake lotteries, prize draws or psychic scams.

Collins said Scotland's contact centre in Lewis was the best-performing in the UK, with a customer satisfaction rate of 91%.

Kyla Brand, OFT representative in Scotland, said: "The OFT is having an impact in Scotland whether it is preventing price-fixing among businesses or engaging with the serious effects of scams on the most vulnerable consumers.

"We are determined to work for consumers and with our partners in ensuring fair trading businesses across all parts of the UK."