A new report from the guys at the sharp end looks at how cutting ties with the EU affects all of us and in particular the work of Local Trading Standards Officers who are in day to day contact with consumers and businesses. The CTSI (Chartered Trading Standards Institute) points out that transposing EU law into UK law is only the start of maintaining consumer protection.
Rules without Resources – Ineffectual
Rules without resources for application, advice and enforcement are rendered ineffectual. Trading Standards departments face new work loads, yet their resources have more than halved since 2010. Key networks linked to the EU will be lost and many regulations require reciprocal agreements and action from the EU 27.
CTSI identify as a key threat the present lack of clarity in what will be required and the time to implement whatever finally emerges. Life outside the single market alters many relationships across e-commerce. Without agreement there could be critical losses of information exchange on issues such as unsafe products. The Government has committed to enhancing product safety and standards but CTSI says that without continued co-operation from EU27 (bad deal or no deal) ‘our product safety system is in real jeopardy’, including agriculture and food products. UK exports to the EU will need to demonstrate continued conformity EU standards. Any divergence from EU standards by the UK may prejudice such trade and place a significant burden on inspections of imports, again down to TSDs.
The 2/3 of UK travel abroad is to EU countries, enjoying a range of protections. Reciprocal health care, compensation for delays, cancellation and insolvency and phone roaming rights are key when looking at consumer protection in the future.
Consumer rights have no value unless they can be enforced, either by actions against traders in the UK or through consumers receiving redress. UK needs to retain clear processes for resolving disputes across the EU. Similar issues apply to weights and measures.
Opportunities in Future?
There are opportunities in no longer having to apply EU law, provided trade with the EU is not compromised. Some consumer law is over-complex. Some lacks clarity or is multi-layered. But as we have said before, we need both to hang on to what we already have for starters and make a contribution to keeping standards high in the future.