Consumer law aims to ensure that businesses are fair and open in their dealings with consumers.
Our powers cover rail passengers and the companies they deal with. ORR is a designated enforcer under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Our powers enable us to stop breaches of a range of consumer protection laws where there is evidence of passengers as a group being put at an unfair disadvantage. A key set of rules are the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These prohibit some practices outright, such as misleading advertising and contain a general ban on 'practices which contravene the requirements of professional diligence'.
The Department for Transport has a central role to play in the delivery/protection of passenger benefits through its operation and enforcement of franchises, as do other franchising authorities including Transport Scotland and the Welsh Assembly Government. Passenger Focus and London TravelWatch also continue to have a significant role in assisting passengers and raising passengers' awareness of their rights. There are also other consumer bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority which can intervene to protect passengers – by policing the self-regulatory advertising industry codes. ORR's approach to its consumer law role is to avoid overlap and to, therefore, intervene only where there is a gap in protection for the passenger, where no other body is taking action or where the powers available to us are more suited to the circumstances.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published guidance on consumer protection under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. It has also produced a guide on the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which implements the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
ORR's approach to enforcing general consumer law in services relating to railways sets out the approach we will take in exercising our consumer law enforcement role. This document is mainly aimed at those providing services to consumers in relation to the railways, such as train operating companies and third party retailers of train tickets but it should also be useful for rail passengers and those who represent them.