The watchdog that didn’t bark ..

Photo by Paul Thomas on Unsplash

In Chapter 1 of Introductory Scots Law, I discuss the role of regulatory bodies. This was also a subject that I commented on in three previous blogs (Watchdogs published on 14 March 2019; No more heartbreak hotel? also published on 14 March 2019; and Stuck at Red published on 22 March 2019).

Regulatory bodies (usually established under statutory authority) can provide important safeguards for the public by ensuring that there is a system of effective oversight in place to police the activities of businesses. Traditionally, consumers are usually in a much weaker position (economically speaking) when it comes to their relationships with business organisations – especially bigger concerns. In essence, the regulators exist to uphold and fight for the public interest (e.g. to guarantee consumer choice) and to ensure free and fair competition in various market places e.g. the utilities market or the financial services market.

As we have seen, regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority can crack down on all sorts of unfair and misleading commercial practices which have a negative impact on consumers (No more heartbreak hotel?).

What if the regulator fails?

Regulators aren’t always effective and can sometimes fail to carry out their duty of care. The now defunct Financial Services Authority (which was previously a major UK regulator) is accused of failing in its duty of care. This concerns the merger between the Co-op Bank and the Britannia Building Society. The charge against the Financial Services Authority is that the merger was given the green light despite serious misgivings about the wisdom of this tie-up between the two organisations being voiced. A major review of the merger in 2009 (chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly) has concluded that it should not have been allowed to proceed.

Please see links to the story which was reported by the BBC and Sky News last week:

Co-op Bank and Britannia merger ‘should never have happened’

The Co-operative Bank’s merger with the Britannia building society in 2009 should never have happened, a major review of the organisation has concluded.

Co-op Bank left ‘defenceless’ by regulator in ill-fated merger

https://news.sky.com/story/co-op-bank-left-defenceless-by-regulator-in-ill-fated-merger-11676710

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 3 April 2019

Stuck at red …

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Two interesting stories appeared in the UK media today which highlight the important role of regulatory bodies in the field of consumer protection. This is a topic which has already been considered in a number of recent posts (Watchdogs and No more heartbreak hotel?) both published on 14 March 2019.

The first story involves the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which has effectively shown the red light to the proposed merger between the two supermarket chains, ASDA and Sainsbury’s. Any newly merged company would have tremendous economic power and such a development could adversely affect the interests of UK consumers e.g. by restricting consumer choice. In response to this setback, both retailers have offered to sell off approximately 150 supermarkets and some petrol stations in the hope that the CMA may eventually be persuaded to allow the merger to go ahead.

The second story involves the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) which has banned the use of adverts by 150 autism therapists who claim that a controversial practice, involving high doses of vitamin C and zinc, known as CEASE (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) can ‘cure’ the condition. The ASA has issued these therapists with an enforcement notice telling them to stop making and advertising such claims that CEASE is an effective treatment for autism. According to the ASA, these assertions are being made without “proper scientific foundation” and “could seriously harm children”.

Links to the two stories can be found below:

Ad watchdog orders 150 ‘autism cure’ therapists to stop
http://news.sky.com/story/ad-watchdog-orders-150-autism-cure-therapists-to-stop-11672357

Sainsbury’s and Asda offer to sell supermarkets to merge

The chains tell the UK competition watchdog they would sell up to 150 supermarkets to be able to merge.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 22 March 2019

Watchdogs

Photo by Shumilov Ludmila on Unsplash

In an earlier post published today (No more heartbreak hotel?), I discussed the work of regulatory bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority.

Another body which does a lot of sterling work on behalf of the public is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is the body charged with the responsibility of enforcing the equality laws of the United Kingdom.

Recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken an interest in highlighting (and challenging) allegations of unlawful, less favourable treatment.

The Commission has made known its intention to investigate the British Broadcasting Corporation (in respect of sex discrimination involving pay) and the British Labour Party (for alleged anti-semitism).

Links to these stories can be found below:

‘Watchdog investigates BBC over ‘pay discrimination’’

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.130319/data/8819431/index.html

Labour antisemitism: equalities watchdog opens investigation

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/07/labour-antisemitism-equalities-watchdog-opens-investigation

Copyright – Seán J Crossan, 14 March 2019