By Daniel Hunter
Maximising its impact for consumers and economic growth, while paving the way for new regimes, are central priorities in the Office of Fair Trading's Annual Plan.
The next twelve months will mark the OFT's final year after four decades of protecting consumers and driving competition. The OFT will focus on three key objectives:
- maximising impact - through enforcement, market studies and influencing behaviour in markets;
- supporting transition to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA);
- developing staff and advancing performance, underpinning the OFT's commitment to be in the best shape possible ahead of transition.
Particular priority will be given to five cross-cutting themes:
Protecting vulnerable consumers The OFT will respond vigorously to market problems facing consumers who are vulnerable, whether as a result of the current adverse economic climate, or their individual circumstances.
Acting where pricing is used as a barrier to fair choice The OFT will tackle instances where pricing is used as a barrier to fair choice, targeting business practices that seek to reduce competition, create complexity, or construct offers in a way that consumers would not expect.
Taking action in rapidly evolving, high-innovation markets where there is risk to consumers The OFT will take action in developing markets where circumstances could result in significant consumer detriment; in particular technological advances, digital innovation, and the continued growth of the internet as a sales channel.
Helping make public services markets work well The OFT will collaborate with government departments and public bodies to help frame and deliver services that work well for citizens and taxpayers.
Working more closely with regulators The OFT will work more closely with concurrent regulators, laying the groundwork for the role the CMA will have in the future.
"Our plans for this year are ambitious, keeping up the pace of our work while supporting transition to new regimes," OFT Chairman, Philip Collins, said.
"We've strengthened our focus on economic growth in this year's plan. Vibrant competition between firms is a crucial factor for driving and underpinning economic growth, as it can have a positive impact on both efficiency and innovation.
"The OFT also aims to boost its efficiency and invest in its staff, underpinning its ability to take on important issues for consumers and in the economy."
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