Citizens Advice response to the Competition and Markets Authority Annual Plan, 2022-2023
Citizens Advice welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. At Citizens Advice, we offer free, independent, and confidential advice and information to anyone who needs it. In the past year, we have supported people with over 930,000 consumer problems, and have been at the forefront of helping consumers manage the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Since 2014, Citizens Advice has also been the statutory advocate and advice provider for energy consumers. Our vision is for an energy market that is inclusive by design and recognises the essential nature of energy supply. It should facilitate and encourage innovation, be accessible by all and treat everybody fairly, regardless of their circumstances.
We support the suggested themes of the work plan, as well as the plans for ongoing engagement between the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Citizens Advice to share our knowledge and insights on consumer markets. Our organisations work closely together on issues of importance for consumers and it is essential for our clients that the CMA is a highly functioning organisation, able to clamp down on markets or firms that aren’t delivering good outcomes.
We have welcomed the work done by the CMA in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the work set out in the annual plan continues this positive direction of travel. It is essential that the CMA take a thoughtful evidenced approach to the interventions they make but the approach during Covid has seen a very positive balance of consideration, and quick action where necessary. This willingness to be pragmatic in response to quickly emerging detriment should continue.
This is an important year for the CMA’s strategic direction with a new CEO and Chair likely to come into post. We hope that both of these opportunities mark a continuation of the drive to protect consumers, rather than a shift in direction towards a more single-minded focus on competition.
It is positive to see the CMA refer so directly to the cost of living crisis in the foreword. This is the biggest challenge facing Citizens Advice clients this year, with rising energy bills just one factor. There is an important role for the CMA in clamping down on any market or firm charging excessive prices that could tip people (particularly those in more vulnerable circumstances) into financial difficulty. This could apply to whole sectors where many people are paying too much - like childcare or the private rented sector - or specific sharp practises like subscription traps.