OFT seeks views from Highland residents

Issued by: Office of Fair Trading

The Office of Fair Trading is asking residents in the Highlands to contribute to a fact-finding study into the challenges facing consumers and businesses in remote communities across the UK.

As part of its national research, the OFT will be hearing the views of Highlands residents and businesses at an event taking place at the Highland Council Chamber in Inverness on 14th March from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. In particular, it hopes to hear evidence about the availability, quality and price of goods and services locally. 

 The OFT recognises that prices of many goods and services are frequently higher in remote communities, there can be fewer suppliers available, and access to key services such as shops, dentists, chemists, banks and public transport can be limited. Fuel prices are a common cause for concern for those who need to travel long distances to get to school, to work or to the shops. Whilst shopping online may expand opportunities for broader choice and quality, deliveries to more isolated areas can sometimes be problematic or costly.

The OFT will be seeking to explore these and other issues with communities and businesses in remote areas, with the aim of improving its, and others', understanding of how consumer or competition law can help tackle them.

The OFT will also look at evidence and experience from across the entire UK and will explore how other countries address specific market issues arising in isolated communities.

Kyla Brand, OFT Director, said: "Geography and population density can have a major impact on the cost and accessibility of goods and services to consumers, and on how businesses operate. We are particularly interested in hearing the views of Highlands residents to help us get a clearer picture of these issues and understand and explain some of the reasons behind them. We also want to explore what the OFT, or other bodies could do to reduce the downsides, and maximise the benefits of remoteness."

Councillor John Laing, Chairman of The Highland Council’s TEC Services Committee said: "Highland Council’s Trading Standards are all too aware of the some of the challenges facing shoppers and businesses in the Highlands. This is a unique opportunity, so we would encourage people to share their views directly with the Office of Fair Trading."

Individuals and businesses wishing to contribute to the study and who are unable to attend the event are requested to send their views before 20 April to the OFT Office in Scotland, 23 Walker Street, Edinburgh EH3 7HX, fill in an online form at www.oft.gov.uk/remcom, or email remotecommunities@oft.gsi.gov.uk

The OFT expects to publish the outcome of this call for evidence by July.

8 Mar 2012