UK consumers will continue to have access to a critical service that provides them redress in the event of a purchase being made abroad going wrong after an announcement that UK Government funding would continue for at least another year.
Having previously been partially funded by the EU, The UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) has been solely funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) since the UK’s departure from the EU. But its future was only assured until the end of last month (March 2022). Now BEIS has confirmed the UK Government’s funding pledge for the next 12 months.
UKICC Service Director, Andy Allen, said: “UKICC is a vital tool in UK consumers’ armoury when they need to resolve disputes with traders based abroad. We play a critical role in the UK consumer protection landscape.
“A particularly important example of this is that it received a record number of enquiries in 48 hours in April 2020 – at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – from more than 1,000 UK consumers seeking its expertise and advice in relation to airline flight cancellations. This was the biggest influx of consumer enquiries since the 2010 Icelandic volcanic ash cloud caused chaos.
“The fact that we have received news that the UK Government will continue to fund us at least until the end of March 2023 is fantastic news for all UK consumers. The message from the UK International Consumer Centre as it celebrates the news is: ‘We’re still here, we’re still helping and we’re still free’.”
Lord Lindsay, President of host body the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said that the UK International Consumer Centre plays an essential role in empowering consumers, helping them to gain a better awareness of their rights and providing them with support when they need it most.
He said: “With the challenges after Brexit, COVID-19 recovery and new markets being explored, we thank Her Majesty’s Government for recognising that UK consumers need the help of the UKICC. Consumers need to be confident and feel protected in taking the opportunities created by trade with the EU and non-EU consumer markets as they open up and this announcement will help that.
“With possible divergence from EU consumer law and new global markets becoming accessible, it is great news that the UK Government has recognised that this is clearly not the time for the loss of such an important service.”
For UK consumers, the key benefit is that since the UK left the EU the UKICC has focused on extending its activities to help with disputes over purchases made in more and more non-European countries. This is critical to supporting consumer confidence as the UK extends its international trading partnerships.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The UKICC is growing its partnerships with consumer organisations all over the world and now has a range of case-sharing arrangements with 10 non-EU countries. It is working hard to grow this part of its work, with discussions going on with other countries including Australia and Bangladesh.
“The UK is striving to capitalise on the huge potential generated by strengthening and growing trade with other countries. As the UK market effectively opens up to more countries and as more and more international trade deals are done, the UKICC wants to support consumers in maximising the benefits of these new markets by providing advice and support if they encounter problems with traders. We want to ensure that UK consumers are protected wherever they purchase products from and we are very proud of our record of getting successful outcomes for consumers, and this is something the Government recognises.
“BEIS has continued its support of the UKICC and, by continuing to fund the service, has recognised the work that the centre does directly on the frontline of consumer support.”