Parliament may only sit for a few more days before it dissolves for the General Election, but yesterday I had the chance to speak to members of the Lords about the most critical issue on the next government’s plate – Brexit. And crucially, what that means for consumer protection.
The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has sensibly decided to hold an inquiry into Brexit and consumer protection. It’s first evidence session was with Which? and our colleagues at Citizens Advice.
— Which? News (@WhichNews) April 25, 2017
The Committee was quick to assure us that even though the election is being held, the evidence session was important. And we’re hopeful that the Committee will quickly return to the inquiry once Parliament is back in June.
We also want them to hear from Ministers, regulators and businesses about how consumer issues will be a central part of the Brexit process.
I’m sure that the members of the House of Lords who grilled me yesterday included both Leave and Remain voters. But now that Article 50 has been triggered, all Peers in the room were concerned about how we ensure the Brexit process delivers for consumers.
They wanted our views on the Great Repeal Bill and how we can bring important consumer rights and protections from the EU into UK law. And they also wanted to know which EU regulations should be left behind once we leave.
As you may know, Which? is pleased that the government has committed to ‘lift and shift’ vital consumer protections onto the UK statute book. But agreed that there are opportunities to improve the UK’s consumer protections post-Brexit.
A critical area that we explored was UK consumers’ rights when shopping or on holiday in Europe. This must be a central part of the UK’s negotiations on our new relationship with the EU.
It’s also important that the government prioritises how consumer protection laws will be enforced after Brexit.
We need to have a much more robust regime at home – particularly given the challenges that Trading Standards currently face – but we’ll also need a new approach to working with enforcement agencies around the world.
Scammers and dodgy products cross many borders and we’ll need to work with agencies in the EU and the rest of the world to tackle this.
Peers were very receptive to all of these points and they’ll need to haul new government ministers in front of them after the election to ensure that these issues are prioritised.
We’re going to continue feeding in further evidence to the Committee, but we’re also directly working with government officials and others to make sure that the Brexit process delivers for consumers too.
So, how do you think Brexit will impact consumers? What consumer issues would you like tackled in the process – are there particular issues, like shopping rights, that you think should be prioritised?