What is Consumer Protection?

What is Consumer Protection Legislation?

Consumer Protection Legislation (CPL) is a suite of legislation designed to stop unfair commercial practices by ensuring that contracts between consumers and suppliers are fair and transparent.

How does Consumer Protection Apply in the Higher Education Sector?

CPL sets out minimum standards that should apply to the relationship between Higher Education (HE) and prospective and current students. In particular CPL applies to:

  1. information given to students
  2. the fairness of terms and conditions
  3. complaint handling.

A 60 second Quick Guide on how CPL applies in Universities from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) can be accessed here

Who decides if a breach of CPL breach has occurred? 

Issues of non-compliance can be raised by individual students or through an external body. Although the body with responsibility for CPL is the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), a CPL compliance breach can also be raised by a local authority Trading Standards service and other agencies where appropriate (including Advertising Standards Authority and the Quality Assistance Agency for Higher Education) . The first external reviews of Higher Education Institutes will occur in October 2015.

What are the consequences of a CPL breach?

Where a breach of CPL is found by an external body, enforcement may involve a range of responses including education, advice and warnings.

If an action raised by a individual student is upheld then the University may be required to pay financial compensation for a breach of CPL.

Why have I never heard about Consumer Protection before?

In March 2014 the Office of Fair Trading undertook a review of Higher Education (HE) practices in relation to CPL. The review identified opportunities for HE to improve current practices and advised that guidance on sector specific CPL responsibilities for HE should be created.

In November 2014 Which? produced a report which stated that many HE institutes were potentially in breach of their CPL responsibilities, particularly in relation to transparency of terms and conditions and processes of change. A summary of the Which? report can be found here.

In 2015 the CMA produced guidance on CPL specifically focused on HE providers. The report from the CMA can be found here.

How does the University of St Andrews meet its CPL responsibilities?

Please visit the “Our Approach” page to read more about how St Andrews is addressing CPL.

How can I get more information about CPL?

The focus on CPL for HE providers is relatively recent and so little specific guidance is currently available. St Andrews has produced a number of Quick Guides for certain roles and these can be accessed here.

If you would like clarification on a particular aspect of your role and CPL, please contact the following email address: consumerprotection@st-andrews.ac.uk.

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