Citizens' Advice Scotland backs voluntary retail code of practice north of Border

The Consumer Futures Unit (CFU) of Citizens Advice Scotland favours a voluntary rather than mandatory code of practice for licensed providers in the Scottish business retail market.

Last month, the CFU published a report, Tapping into the Code – recommendations for a new Code of Practice in the Scottish water market, (see HERE) to inform work undertaken by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. Drawing on a literature review and CFU research, the report endorsed a principles rather than rules based approach, pointing to the CFU’s own set of seven consumer principles as suitable. These focus on: access, choice, safety, information, fairness, representation and redress.

In terms of implementation, the report found “the Code of Practice should be introduced initially on a voluntary basis – but with strong encouragement to do so by the regulator – in the hope that licensed providers will agree to adopt the principles and practices set out within it”. This is on that basis of the belief that “improved consumer outcomes could be achieved if service providers adopt consumer focused frameworks on a voluntary basis. Moreover, that a significant shift towards developing a stronger consumer focused culture can be achieved by organisations that adopt frameworks that go beyond the minimum legal or regulatory requirements.”

The CFU added the caveat that if uptake is low, implementation should be made mandatory.

The Code itself has been developed and signed off by the industry-led working group set up by WICS, and the CFU noted it has been submitted to WICS “who will make a final decision on how it will be implemented – in particular, whether the Code is to be made voluntary or mandatory for licensed providers”.