By Daniel Hunter

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has today (Friday) published guidance which sets out how and when it can use its new power to suspend consumer credit licences.

Under the Financial Services Act 2012, the OFT can only use the new power where there is an urgent need to protect consumers from harm.

The guidance establishes that in the most serious cases, which include those where there is evidence of physical harm, the OFT will suspend a licence with immediate effect. In other circumstances, businesses will be given an opportunity to make its case to an adjudicator before the suspension takes effect.

The power significantly strengthens the OFT's ability to protect consumers, allowing it to quickly put a stop to the licensable activities of businesses that otherwise would be able to operate until the end of an often lengthy appeals process.

The OFT will use the power where there is evidence that the business has engaged in practices that cause, or have the potential to cause, physical, economic or other harm to consumers. These practices may involve violence, fraud or other forms of dishonesty, or the targeting vulnerable consumers with harmful practices.

"This important new power strengthens our ability to protect consumers from harm. We will not hesitate to use it in the most serious cases where there is an urgent need to protect people," David Fisher, OFT Director of Credit, said.

Today's guidance has been produced following a consultation to which industry, consumer groups and others responded.

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