What about the Future?
Currently, the future of the UK European Consumer Centre is paid for partly by the European Commission and partly by the UK Government, which could call into question its future after Brexit; meaning that if the UK ECC did not exist then UK consumers could suffer as a result.
With this in mind Baroness Judith Wilcox, a Vice-President of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), put forward a question to the House of Lords on Thursday 17 January 2019 concerning the fundamental protections for UK consumers in cross-border disputes with EU traders after Brexit.
CTSI is responsible for the UK European Consumer Centre, which gives assistance to UK consumers in such disputes. It believes that it is vital for UK consumers to be able to continue to buy from EU retailers and manufacturers after Brexit, with minimal uncertainty over routes to redress.
Baroness Wilcox, who is also a past-President of CTSI, asked what assessment that Government has made of the impact of Brexit on the rights of consumers who purchase goods from retailers or manufacturers based in the European Union.
She pointed out that since it was formed 11 years ago, the UK ECC has handled more than 100,000 cases, and questioned what assurances could be made over the organisation’s future.
Lord Henley, Under-Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), stated that “in the event of a no-deal exit, the Government have committed to fund the UK European Consumer Centre for at least one more year until March 2020. That will obviously be kept under review during this year.”
Former CTSI President Baroness Crawley, now also a Vice-President, added to the pressure on Government to continue to support the UK ECC, expressing her concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on consumer protection: “It is clear to all of us in the sector that consumer rights and protections have been continually strengthened through our membership of the European Union,” she said.
To watch the discussion, see the clip embedded in the Journal of Trading Standards of 18 January - House of Lords debate
CTSI Chief Executive Leon Livermore said: “Given the work undertaken by the UK ECC in protecting consumers, I hope that the value of such a service will be evident enough for the Government to continue funding beyond 2020.”