Enforcement Policy of the Office of Fair Trading
The statutory functions of the Office can be found in the Consumer Protection Act 1991 and are stated as follows, “……to protect, inform, advise, support and represent generally the interests of consumers as such, and to provide information and advice to persons on legislation for which it is responsible.”.
Much of the detailed work undertaken by the Office is carried out in accordance with various other statutes which are the responsibility of the Office. Those statutes which create criminal offences and include associated penalties will usually provide for enforcement to be carried out by authorised officers and these officers will usually have powers to enter premises used for business purposes and to require the production of documents or other goods for inspection. All such officers will carry identification and you are advised to request production of such before allowing access.
It is the aim of the Office and its officers to ensure that all businesses in the Isle of Man comply with the legislation that governs their activities and to achieve this aim and fulfil its statutory obligations the Office has developed the following policy.
- The Office will provide information and advice on any legislation for which it is responsible upon request
- Advice from an officer will be put clearly and simply and confirmed in writing on request, explaining why any remedial action is necessary and over what timescale, and making sure that legal requirements are distinguished from best practice
- The Office has introduced line management procedures to ensure that any breaches of legislation detected by its officers will be handled in a fair, equitable and consistent manner
- All officers responsible for enforcing legislation are required to apply a hierarchy of enforcement actions when they detect breaches. The hierarchy consists of three steps; 1- advice or information, 2- warning or formal caution, and 3-prosecution
- The seriousness of the breach will determine the appropriate enforcement action to be taken and in most cases the three steps of the hierarchy will be applied sequentially where recurrent breaches of the same provisions are detected ie. first breach will result in advice being given, second breach will attract a warning or a formal caution and a third breach may result in a prosecution
- Where officers detect more serious offences on the first occasion (such as those attracting fines of £2000 or more and/or imprisonment) they may issue both advice and a warning or formal caution simultaneously
- Where the serious breach involves such matters as (but not restricted to) significant safety issues, fraudulent intent, reckless disregard for the legislation or failure to obtain the necessary licence, registration, permit or authorisation before commencing business then prosecution proceedings may be instituted in the first instance even where advice or formal cautions have not been issued previously
- Where there are rights of appeal against formal action, advice on the appeal mechanism will be clearly set out in writing at the time that action is taken, or as soon as possible thereafter.
Each case will be considered on its merits and officers are given considerable discretion in determining the most appropriate enforcement action to apply. The fact that no advice or formal caution has been issued at the time of detecting any breach should not be regarded as preventing a prosecution from being instituted.
Any comments regarding this policy or its operation should be addressed in writing to the Chief Officer, Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading, Government Buildings, Lord Street, Douglas,Isle of Man, IM1 1LE