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Super-Complaints

Key Facts:

• Designated consumer bodies will be able to make super-complaints to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

• OFT has a duty to respond to a super-complaint within 90 days.

• Possible outcomes of an investigation by the OFT are a reference of the market to the Competition Commission; a full market study by the OFT; recommendations for changes in laws and regulations; recommendations to regulators, self-regulatory bodies and others to consider changes to their rules; campaigns to promote consumer education and awareness or a clean bill of health.

What is a super-complaint?

Section 11 of the Enterprise Act enables consumer bodies designated by the Secretary of State to submit “super-complaints” to the OFT where they consider that there is any market feature, or combination of features, such as the structure of a market or the conduct of those operating within it, that is or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers.

Who can bring a super-complaint?

Only those bodies that have been designated by the Secretary of State can bring a super-complaint.

The super complaints process has been set up with the aim of strengthening the voice of consumers, as they are unlikely to have access individually to the kind of information necessary to judge whether markets are failing for them. Consumer groups can access individuals’ complaints to form a judgment on whether there is a problem and then take the necessary action.

However, it is important to remember that any body can still bring complaints to the OFT and the OFT will deal with them.  Super-complaints are simply a new route into the system – an initial “fast-tracking” to ensure that complaints about market failure which harms consumers are given consideration within a fixed time.

Which bodies have been designated so far?

The Campaign for Real Ale Limited (CAMRA)
The Consumer Council for Water
The Consumers' Association (trading as "Which?")
The General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland (GCCNI)
The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB)
The National Consumer Council (trading as "Consumer Focus")

An application from What Car? was received in April 2007, but was rejected on the grounds that the body was not able to fulfill criteria 1 and 5 of the Guidance for bodies seeking designation as super-complainants (link on the right).

How can a consumer body apply to be designated?

Designations are made on 1 October each year, with 30 April being the deadline for submitting applications. Full guidance for bodies seeking designation as super-complainants is available.

For further information on applying for designation please contact:

Marie Cawley
Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate
Tel: 020 7215 6771
e-mail: marie.cawley@bis.gsi.gov.uk