UK regulators must do more to protect consumers
Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the UK’s regulators and whether they are meeting their “duties” when it comes to protecting consumers.
Government, Parliament and consumer representatives have expressed concerns about whether the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as well as Ofwat, Ofgem and Ofcom, are working as well as they can for consumers, a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.
UK households spend a total of around £140 billion a year in bills on water, energy and telecommunications, and fees and charges in financial services, and regulators have "statutory duties" to protect them, NAO said.
The office explained that although regulators face common challenges in meeting their objectives, they must address consumer concerns from rising bills to the impact of service failures.
"They have to balance the often-competing needs of consumer and provider interests, alongside other duties covering issues such as sustainability, security of supply, or financial stability, and they often have only limited influence over outcomes," NAO judged.
In the context of concerns over the ability of regulators to protect consumers, NOA said it is imperative that they are clear and specific about the outcomes they are seeking to achieve.
Moreover, the office cautioned that although regulators are taking steps to improve how they define, measure and report their performance, they have to go further to do so in a "meaningful way".