Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Scottish Consumer Council (SCC 1A)
We promised to supply additional information,
as outlined in your letter of 6 November and I am happy to respond
There are two specific areas in relation to
consumer credit where we are concerned that the law is different
in Scotland to that in England and Wales. The first relates to
harrassment by creditors and their agents. We are concerned by
the evidence of widespread harassment and intimidation of debtors
in Scotland by both creditors and debt collectors contained in
a recent report published by Citizens' Advice Scotland.;
Would you credit it?- creditor
behaviour in Scotland, Citizens' Advice Scotland, December
While such harassment is a criminal offence
in England and Wales (under the Administration of Justice Act
1970), there is no equivalent statutory offence in Scotland, although
in theory such behaviour might presently constitute breach of
the peace at common law. We think that careful consideration should
be given to introducing a general law against harassment by both
creditors and debt collectors in Scotland, to ensure that Scottish
consumers do not continue to be less well protected against such
practices than people in England and Wales. It is our understanding,
however, that this would be within the remit of the Scottish Parliament
rather than Westminster.
Secondly, we are concerned at the discrepancy
between the rules on lay representation in Scotland and those
in England and Wales in relation to time orders under the Consumer
Credit Act. Time orders can be applied for to allow a debtor time
to pay, or to vary the terms of, a credit agreement under the
Act. However, while in England and Wales a debtor is entitled
to be represented in court by a lay representative, this is not
the case in Scotland, putting Scottish debtors at a clear disadvantage.
While it might be argued that rights of representation is a matter
which could be dealt with by amending sheriff court rules, the
view of the Scottish Executive is that any amendment must be made
at Westminster, as the Act is a UK statute. The Executive has
recently declared its intention to ensure that the position in
Scotland is brought into line with that in England and Wales,
but states that any such reform would require to be brought before
the UK parliament.
Enforcement of Civil Obligations
in Scotland: a consultation document, Scottish Executive,
While we do not have any specific recommendations
for changes in relation to property law at a UK level, we can
identify four main areas where the OFT has responsibilities which
may impact on the situation in Scotland.
Firstly, there is the OFT's role in relation
to the regulation of unfair contract terms, as discussed at the
committee session. Secondly, the OFT enforces the Estate Agents
Act, which, although it does not apply to Scottish solicitors
acting as estate agents, who carry out the majority of estate
agency work in Scotland, it does apply to those estate agents
who are in practice in Scotland, who are particularly prevalent
in the West Central belt.
Thirdly, the OFT does of course have an important
role in regulating competition in relation to the legal, surveying,
estate agent and other relevant professions, in order to ensure
that the market works effectively.
Finally, the Housing Improvement Task Force
on buying and selling, on which we are represented, is currently
considering whether the Property Misdescriptions Act and/or the
Misleading Advertisements Act, both of which are enforced by the
OFT and trading standards departments, might be usefully employed
in addressing the problem of low "upset" prices in Scotland.
Our research shows that buyers are concerned about these, which
can lead to buyers paying for unnecessary surveys over a property
they cannot afford, because a low "offers over" price
misleads them into thinking it is within their price range.
Q16Funding by DTI since Devolution
SCOTTISH CONSUMER COUNCIL'S DTI INCOME FOR
FINANCIAL YEARS 1996-2003
|Financial Year||Out Turn
||Out Turn||Out Turn
||Out Turn||Out Turn
|Yearly Percentage Increase||
Overall Increase 77.68%
Q21Report on Views of CAP Reform
A copy of the report is enclosed. 3
The Scottish Human Rights Forum is an informal coalition
of interested organisations set up to discuss and promote human
rights issues in Scotland, and to promote the establishment of
a Scottish Human Rights Commission. Membership includes a broad
range of statutory, voluntary sector and legal organisations.
In March 2000, the Forum published a discussion paper on a Human
Rights Commission for Scotland, which outlined the arguments for
establishing such a Commission, what it might look like, its potential
remit, duties and powers, and how it might be funded. This was
followed in March 2001 by a Scottish Executive consultation on
whether a Human Rights Commission should be established in Scotland.
In December 2001, the Justice Minister announced that a Scottish
Human Rights Commission would be established, and a further consultation
on proposals for a commission is currently awaited.
Q40 and 41Documents on Survey into Consumer Awareness
of Rights and Annual Workplan
The report on consumers' knowledge of their rights is expected
to be published early in 2003 and I will ensure that you receive
a copy.The second document referred to was our proposed research
into direct payments. This work has not yet commenced but again
I will ensure that you receive a copy of the final report of this
I hope this information answers members' queries. We also
undertook, under question 25, to look into whether we had sent
Mr Robertson our reports. On checking our records I can advise
you that we have sent all of our published reports to Mr Robertson
and to all other Scottish MPs. Mr Robertson referred to our work
in the chamber during the passage of the Ofcom Bill (Hansard 14
January 2002, columns 95 and 96).
Once again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to appear
before the Committee and please do not hesitate to contact me
should you require any further information.
Head of Corporate Resources
19 November 2002
3 Not published. Future of FarmingReforming the Common
Agricultural Policy in the interests of Consumers, available from
the Scottish Consumer Council.