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George Eustice - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Following a consultation exercise led by my Department in early 2015, the Government has made an amendment to the Order delegating the exercise of certain marine licensing functions to the Marine Management Organisation( MMO). These changes took effect on 1 October 2015.

The marine licensing system was introduced by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The exercise of most licensing functions in England and the offshore areas of Wales and Northern Ireland have been delegated by the Secretary of State to the MMO.

The purpose of the amending Order is to strengthen democratic accountability on the most complex marine licence applications by providing an opportunity for locally accountable bodies (i.e. Local Planning Authorities, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities) to seek an independent inquiry into certain marine licensing applications, with the final decision taken by Ministers directly accountable to Parliament. It will also enable Ministers to determine certain applications which involve activities of national significance but in relation to which there is no or insufficient planning policy guidance.

The Order includes the criteria according to which the Secretary of State will consider whether to recover an application. In this context recover means that an application is to be determined by the Secretary of State

The Governments intention is that the policy will be highly selective and that only a very small proportion of marine licensing cases will be recovered.

The Secretary of State has issued statutory guidance to the MMO setting out how it should apply the policy, including providing indicative targets for each stage of the process. A copy of the guidance has been placed in the libraries of both Houses.

The Government will review the effectiveness of the policy and consult with stakeholder groups in October 2016.


Nick Boles - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Today I am publishing a Report on the enforcement provisions of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the CPRs). The report reviews the case for giving businesses a power to seek civil injunctions against copycat packaging (packaging designed to give a product the look and feel of a competing well-known brand).

The Coalition Government agreed to review the case for granting businesses an injunctive power in relation to copycat packaging. BIS published a Call for Evidence seeking views on the proposal in April last year. I do not believe that the responses to the Call for Evidence have yet made the case for granting such civil injunction powers. I am announcing my decision that such a power should not be granted at this time.

The CPRs implement the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (the UCPD). Copycat packaging potentially infringes provisions of the CPRs which prohibit traders from engaging in certain misleading actions including marketing a product in a way which creates confusion with a competitors products, distinguishing marks etc. Specified enforcers such as the Competition and Markets Authority and Trading Standards Officers may enforce the CPRs by civil sanctions; there are also separate criminal sanctions. Although the UCPD allows for competing businesses to be given enforcement powers, that option was not exercised when the CPRs were made in 2008.

The report I am publishing today highlights the key issues and assesses the evidence on consumer detriment, competition and innovation.

The views expressed during the review were polarised. Certain brand owners argued that a lack of enforcement has resulted in consumers being misled and sales being diverted from brand owners, which they say reduces innovation and distorts competition. For retailers, these arguments illustrate that the case is driven not by consumer concerns but by commercial considerations; they consider granting the power could be anti-competitive while not benefiting consumers. Others noted the absence of consumer appetite for action, questioned the appropriateness of amending consumer law to facilitate business-to-business litigation, and doubted whether there is a material enforcement gap given existing powers to pursue action in respect of intellectual property infringement as well as passing-off. Public enforcers do not currently consider there is consumer detriment arising from similar packaging (and if there were, that it would be mitigated by access to quick and easy redress i.e. exchange of products bought in error). They are also concerned that granting the power would damage the integrity of the enforcement system.

Brands are important to the UK economy and it is clear from the report that positive brand innovation is important to consumers. Following the review, I conclude there is little clear evidence that the use of similar packaging is causing any significant consumer detriment or hindering competition or innovation. There would be risks of unintended consequences if we changed the status quo, given the uncertainty around the evidence and the effects of the change, particularly in respect of the litigation that would result, and on enforcement. More generally, it would be difficult to reconcile granting this enforcement power with the Governments deregulatory objectives.

I will be placing the report in the Libraries of the House. It will also be published online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consumer-protection-copycat-packaging-call-for-evidence.

 


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