CTSI is warning that the cost of living crisis will greatly expand consumer vulnerability and that the UK urgently needs a more effective strategy to protect consumers.
Trading standards experts are concerned that the crisis will create opportunities for fraudsters to immiserate a financially desperate public, especially the most vulnerable. Some of the likely consequences listed by consumer protection experts include an increase in loan shark activities and energy tariff mis-selling by doorstep sellers, alongside other questionable money-saving schemes.
This month, Ofgem announced that the energy Default Tariff Cap will rise by 54% or £693 from April 1, while the Bank of England reported that UK inflation rose to 5.5% in January – the highest rate since March 1992. The challenging economic situation, combined with the long-term social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing changes brought about by the UK’s exit from the European Union, has created a perfect storm for consumers.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The cost of living crisis risks a significant rise in consumer detriment that the UK has not seen for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic warned us about the depths some will sink to through the scams that emerged out of it. For the unscrupulous, crises are opportunities to make a dishonest profit from the most vulnerable.
“Local trading standards services, working in partnership with other agencies, have continually risen to the challenges of protecting consumers, but this has become increasingly difficult after funding cuts of 50% over the past decade. Gaps in consumer protection are emerging, and whilst trading standards professionals are doing their utmost to protect the public, we are worried about the potential for significantly increased levels of risk.
“CTSI is in an ongoing dialogue with the UK Government and other stakeholders about how best to protect consumers. These concerns illustrate the need for a consumer protection strategy that recognises these deep impacts and that will mitigate them as effectively as possible.”